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The Modular Ballistic Panel System (MBPS) was developed with the US Natick Army Soldier Center and provides soldiers with enhanced ballistic protection, is rapidly deployable, and lightweight. The solid panels one can see are the MBPS system at work after a storm tore open the surrounding tent. Courtesy photo.

By Ramona du Houx

July 2, 2020

Washington, D.C. – The University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center (ASCC) has been awarded a total of $3,215,332 from the U.S. Army Natick Soldiers Systems Center (SSC). The funding will support UMaine ASCC’s continued research to better protect the men and women of our nation’s military, including the development of the Modular Ballistic Protection Systems (MBPS) to protect the lives of personnel in Army tents.

UMaine will also work to develop inflatable arches that allow troops to quickly set up shelter. The basic technology used in the center’s bridge-n-a backpack is part of this effort.

The Advanced Structures and Composites Center, University of Maine’s research and development laboratory, has a track record for ground breaking inventions like the floating offshore wind turbines and the bridge-n-a-backpack. The Modular Ballistic Protection Systems (MBPS), will help protect the nation’s military and people living in hurricane prone areas.

With this grant ASCC will expand its laboratory space and add more research personnel in order to accelerate its efforts.

“The ASCC is pleased to continue to support our troops and protect lives over the next 5 years through this new and significant contract,” said Dr. Habib J. Dagher, Executive Director of the ASCC. “The ASCC’s work with the Natick Soldier SSC has resulted in two Maine spinoff companies, Compotech and Advanced Infrastructure Technologies (AIT), both located in Brewer. Compotech has been manufacturing ballistic panels and shelters developed at the ASCC. AIT has been manufacturing composite bridges that have been developed and patented by the ASCC. The ASCC has also been hiring new research engineers and technicians, including 15 new personnel and 60 students this year.”

With this new contract, the ASCC plans to hire additional full-time research personnel as well as graduate and undergraduate students over the next five years. The researchers will be working on the 3D printing of shelters, as well as developing new shelter materials that increase protection and reduce detection, weight, production times, and overall costs. UMaine will also be renovating laboratory space to house up to 30 additional personnel at the ASCC, which is expected to be completed this year.

Last fall, UMaine unveiled the world’s largest polymer 3D printer and largest 3D printed object, a Guiness World Record 5,000 lbs, 25 ft long patrol boat.

The ASCC supports Maine industry with product development, and aims to create opportunities for UMaine students to explore interests in engineering, science, renewable energy, forest resources or wood science, economics, entrepreneurship, international trade and commerce, and business. The research program offers opportunities for K-12 students, employs more than 150 graduate and undergraduates students per year from a wide variety of majors, and has financially sponsored nearly 2,600 UMaine students interns since its opening in 2000.