Belcamp-based engineering company protects the warfighter
Today’s warfighter – Army, Navy, Air Force or Marine –faces “a combination of mines and small arms employed by unconventional forces operating in a contiguous battle space,” according to globalsecurity.org. That’s military-speak for the enemy doesn’t necessarily wear a uniform, is making weapons that kill from whatever they can scrounge and is using these improvised explosive devises whenever and wherever they can.
Military engineers can identify specific weaknesses in and request safer, more effective materiel from defense contractors when they have blueprints and computer aided designs for what’s deployed in battle now.
That’s where Belcamp-based SURVICE Engineering Company comes in. The defense contractor is using its Metrology Center to scan and model Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles and MRAP variants. Its mission? To provide military, government and contractor engineers information they need to improve a vehicle fleet specifically designed to survive mines, rocket propelled grenades and small arms fire.
MRAP vehicles were deployed in 2006, and now comprise three classes. Category I MRAPs weigh seven tons and carry six warfighters. Cat IIs weigh 19 tons and carry 10 warfighters. Cat IIIs, used to clear mines and IEDs, weigh 22.5 tons and carry 12 warfighters. More than 13,000 MRAPs have been deployed in Afghanistan alone.
These V-hulled, armor-plated vehicles are a vast improvement over original and even post-factory “up-armored” High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV), variants that replaced Jeeps and Jeep-based transport trucks and ambulances. Military statistics show that from January 2009 to July 2010, roadside attacks killed 80 percent of HMMWV occupants, but only 15 percent of MRAP occupants.
On the 21st century battlefield, however, the enemy keeps improvising, exploiting weaknesses as they are discovered, eroding the survivability strides made by the MRAP’s deployment. That means the fleet must be improved continuously.
Clark Dutterer is a senior business development analyst with SURVICE. He’s well acquainted with what SURVICE engineers are working on, because the company embraces a holistic, team-based work environment.
“We are looking at blast attenuating seats that absorb shock and blast waves from an under-body event,” Dutterer says. “The biggest problem they are having is threat characterization. With a specific bullet, it’s easy to determine what it will do, but with IEDs, it’s different because they are improvised. They are using mortar rounds from 20 to 30 years ago, fused together and buried at different depths. There is no rhyme or reason to it.”
SURVICE’s core business areas are studies and analysis, modeling and simulation, test and evaluation and information management. Metrology is a full-service division that provides innovative and integrated 3-D measurement services to support reverse engineering, rapid prototyping, T&E data collection, part inspection, manufacturing and assembly and geometric modeling.
“In the past 10 years, we have invested in metrology technology,” Dutterer says. “We use laser and camera-based measuring systems to reverse engineer all components of the MRAP. We make recommendations for designs or concepts to go into designs.”
Dutterer says SURVICE’s Metrology engineers have developed a five-point approach for its defense clients, which include Army Test and Evaluation Command, Army Research Lab, Army Materiel Systems Analysis Activity, and the Army’s Communications and Electronics Command.
During step one, engineers position the vehicle, system or part and calibrate the data system around it. They place precision tooling balls to collect hard point locations using a specialized global positioning system.
During step two, engineers collect interior and exterior data to produce a 20,000-point cloud of location/orientation information. SURVICE uses a combination of contact and non-contact collection systems, including IGPS/X-Station, Krypton Optical CMM, MV224 Coherent Laser Radar and FARO Arm SRE measurement systems.
During steps three and four, engineers use a variety of modeling software and have developed a modeling package and graphics libraries to interface with metrology hardware. The process produces a five million-point cloud of location and orientation information.
Finally, engineers bring that data into a commercial CAD package to prepare the client’s requested information and associated reports.
SURVICE uses this approach for non-defense clients, as well. Dutterer says, “People ship us stuff to reverse engineer. Fishing lures, golf grips. For Verizon, we create precise phone measurements for vendors who supply phone cases. We support Voith Hydro, Inc. In hydroelectric dams there are huge generators that are built onsite. We use a laser tracker during construction so that the welds are in the right place. They are built to a tolerance of 1/1000s of an inch.”
Pioneers in Survivability
Company founder Jim Foulk is a Vietnam-era Defense Department engineer whose groundbreaking vulnerability and survivability studies led to drastic improvements in the country’s Blackhawk and Apache helicopters. After writing more than 50 survivability-related technical publications and stints with a few defense contractors, he took his vision private.
In 1981, backed by wife Nancy’s accounting skills, Foulk started SURVICE in the basement of their home. By 1983, SURVICE employed a handful of engineers. That’s when son Jeff Foulk joined his parents’ company as a mechanical and aerospace engineer.
“I had just finished graduate studies at the Von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics,” Jeff Foulk says. “I had an offer from General Dynamics. My father gave a counter-offer. It was about $4,000 less. A family friend pulled me aside and told me he knew I wanted to blaze my own trail, but that he thought my father had something with this company.”
The younger Foulk became president six years ago, when SURVICE got too big and the entrepreneurial bug too bad for his father who left to start a new company, Chesapeake Testing, a fully-independent small business located in Belcamp.
SURVICE now has 350 employees and 10 offices in seven states. About the company’s next 30 years, Foulk says, “It’s important to stick to our core business platform while growing our capabilities. There are customers we haven’t reached yet. As we become larger, it’s harder to keep employees challenged and satisfied. I want to keep the feel of a small family-operated business.”
When it comes to philanthropy, SURVICE is committed to Wounded Warriors. Foulk also has been an active member of the Upper Chesapeake Health Foundation Board of Directors for eight years.
He seems most committed, however, to his newest outreach, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Harford County. Just like the families it serves, the Boys and Girls Club has seen hard economic times, with its Board forced to close the Aberdeen club for the summer.
“We transported the kids to Havre de Grace, so I don’t think it hurt us too much,” Foulk says. Adding, “It’s not going to happen next year, though.”
Executive Director Randy Acosta says, “He’s made fundraising fun. He’s bringing new faces into the clubs, involving the defense community. We raised $50,000 in new money in just four to five months, earning the Dresher Foundation match. When he was introduced to the Board, he brought his whole family. He told me, ‘Once we are invested, we are in.’” I95