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Wednesday, 07 May 2014 15:36

US Navy patent first: award-winning automation goes commercial

The US Navy has announced that its award-winning Metrology Bench Top (METBENCH) automation system has been licensed to industry for the first time, marking the Navy's first cross-licensing patent agreement of its type.

The historic patent licensing agreement creates a unique, two-way sharing arrangement to bring more capability and allows improvements driven by the system's commercialization to be incorporated by the Navy calibration system for no additional fee(s).

Under the license, American Technical Services, Inc. can commercialize Naval Surface Warfare Center Corona's automated calibration system for industrial use. In turn, the Navy gets a license to use ATS's software, worth nearly $1 million, that program managers plan to use to add new capability to its Metrology Bench Top system. The agreement also allows improvements driven by METBENCH's commercialization to be incorporated into the Navy system for no additional fee.

Often unnoticed behind the scenes, calibrations are critical to nearly every aspect of naval operations and help ensure weapons, equipment and systems function safely and accurately.

Calibration assures systems - ranging from an aircraft's laser target designators to night vision goggles to physical plant equipment - meet design and operational requirements.

With the agreement, industry can now take advantage of the significant efficiencies automated calibration offers. ATS president Alen Petrossian said he has already been approached by industry giants on word of the deal.

"Calibration is a multi-billion dollar industry," said Petrossian. "Reducing the labor it takes to stay calibrated will help companies realize the same benefits the Navy already has with METBENCH."

The METBENCH system takes once-lengthy manual procedures and shortens them using automation. For example, one calibration procedure for a piece of test equipment went from 120 minutes down to 15, nearly a 90 percent reduction.

To date METBENCH is installed on 160 Navy surface ships, 28 submarines and multiple Navy shore calibration labs, saving the Navy more than $50 million by 2017. Corona program manager Richard Schumacher, who leads the METBENCH team, estimates METBENCH has already introduced more than $10 million of efficiencies at shore installations.

NSWC Corona Commanding Officer Capt. Eric Ver Hage praised the public-private partnership, saying the landmark agreement will bolster the Navy's capability for years to come.

"It is truly awesome to leverage this technology to strengthen our nation's industrial base while driving down costs and increasing capability for the Navy," Ver Hage said. 

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