Opti 521 Using Finite Element Analysis to Study the Effects of Weapon Shock on Optomechanical Systems

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OPTI 521

Using Finite Element Analysis to Study the Effects of Weapon Shock on Optomechanical Systems

1. Background
Many optomechanical systems have associated shock requirements that they must withstand. Generally, the shock requirement for an optical system is related to shipping or dropping the system. Weapon shock is more complex, and weapon-mounted optics must be specifically designed to endure some defined lifetime of shock loading. Military optics are required to endure harsh environmental, vibration, and shock environments. Reliability is a key performance parameter for a weapon sight.
This report is meant to put forward a basic set of guidelines for obtaining weapon shock data and implementing it into optomechanical system design, using a case study in which shock data was obtained experimentally and incorporated into the finite element analysis of a specific load-bearing component to illustrate. Specifically, a flexure connected to the optical bench of a weapon sight was modeled to obtain the component’s fatigue life in order to optimize its material and design. The guidelines put forth here are specific in that they speak to obtaining weapon shock data and implementing it into optomechanical analysis. However, it is hoped that their utility can be extended to any load-bearing component, optical mounting components, or even the optics themselves, of any optomechanical system to be analyzed by finite element methods.
While shock analysis at its surface seems to be somewhat straightforward, be assured that modeling shock effects on internal systemic components is no easy task. The particular project referenced in this tutorial necessitated the combined efforts of a hardware contractor and three Government agencies to complete.
Due to the propriety nature of the system referenced, no drawings or specifics will be included, whether or not it be to the detriment of the completeness of this report.

2. Case Study: Flexure Component in a Weapon-Mounted Optic
2.1. System Description:
The system that will be referenced in this report contained a flexure constraining the sight’s optical bench.
The flexure element for the sight referenced serves two functions: 1) to absorb the longitudinal shock of the weapon for the optical bench, and 2) to allow the optical bench to be mechanically adjusted laterally and vertically to boresight the optic to the weapon. To preserve proprietary design information for the system, consider the flexure to be an extruded hollow metal tube with design features to allow it to bend and compress.
In this instance, consider the optical bench to be a prism group of specified mass held by an aluminum housing. It is adjusted for elevation and windage (azimuth) corrections by two mechanical feet extending out through the housing of the sight. These adjusters can be manipulated by the user; their feet push on flats on the top and side of the flexure circumference. So, the flexure is constrained in three places around its circumference: by two click adjuster feet, for lateral and vertical adjustment, and by a counterspring. The counterspring exerts a known nominal force onto a flat on the optical bench at a 45º angle to the adjusters, restricting the flexure and the optical bench’s vertical and lateral motion. The flexure tube is also constrained on both faces, where it is bonded to the rear housing of the sight and to the optical bench. See Figure 2.1 below.

Figure 2.1: Orthogonal Representation of Flexure and Optical Bench Assembly with Constraints and Applied Forces

In the case of the system described, cracks due to fatigue appeared in the flexure during endurance firing. When the cracks propagated enough, the optical bench lost its constraint and was able to move freely within the sight housing. This resulted in cracked prisms, and, worse, loss of aiming capability. A cracked flexure, in other words, renders this specific system non-mission capable. The analysis was done to optimize the design and material of the flexure so that the sight would withstand its endurance requirement.
2.2. Experiment Description
Accleration data was taken from the sight on its intended host weapon using an accelerometer/signal conditioner/oscilloscope system. The data was taken from locations on the sight housing from accelerometers mounted in longitudinal, transverse, and vertical orientations. The data yielded by this experiment was dissimilar to data taken from the weapon itself. The data was implemented into various finite element models to study the fatigue life of the flexure and to optimize its design. More details on the flexure analysis follow throughout this report.
3. Acceleration Data
3.1 Weapon Shock Specifics
It is recommended that shock acceleration data be taken experimentally before conducting any optomechanical analyses of weapon-mounted systems because acceleration data is not generally available or applicable to unique weapon/equipment configurations. Shock acceleration data for weapon systems is not generally either published or disclosed information. Further, shock data taken from the weapon, even from locations at which optics or other equipment will be mounted, is not adequate for analyses beyond first-order design. Acceleration data taken from the weapon itself can be higher or lower, and will peak at different frequencies, than data taken from an optical sight (or any other piece of equipment) due to its mass (which can be high in comparison to the host weapon) and material characteristics. The percentage difference between the data is unpredictable, but could be significant. Therefore, investing the time and resources necessary will yield the most accurate acceleration values possible by following the first guideline:
Guideline #1: Take empirical data from the optomechanical system on each weapon with which it will be used.
Acceleration data should be taken along all three axes of the weapon sight. While it seems intuitive that the worst-case shock load on the system would be longitudinal, in the fore-aft direction along the barrel of the weapon, this may not always be the case. In some instances, due to the coupled effects of the dynamic firing state of the weapon (for instance torque, jump, and resettling), higher peak shock values may be witnessed on either the lateral or vertical axes. So again,
Guideline #2: Collect acceleration data from each orthogonal axis.
Just as shock measured from the host weapon is different from that measured on the optomechanical system, shock magnitude as it relates to frequency can increase or decrease as it is transferred across a structure. Therefore,
Guideline #3: When feasible, collect acceleration data at the component in question.
When it is not feasible to build accelerometers into a prototype optomechanical system, the best course of action is to mount the accelerometers on the housing of the sight so that they capture acceleration data on its three orthogonal axes.
3.2 Shock Profiles:
Shock data is taken as acceleration values at defined time steps. Due to the duration of a typical weapon discharge, acceleration data should be taken at time steps on the order of a millisecond. The ability to do so will depend on the resolution of the accelerometer/signal processor/oscilloscope system used.
Guideline #4: Use acceleration timesteps in milliseconds, in order to provide resolution through the firing event.
A one-second sample from a standard time-acceleration X-Y table is shown in Table 3.2 below.

Time: Time relative to trigger in milliseconds

T0 = 10:22:28.982767 IRIG time.


! (msec)




















Table 3.2: Example of a Time-Acceleration Table

Plotted over time, acceleration along one axis from a single-shot event will look something like Figure 2, where the X-axis represents time in seconds and the Y-axis represents acceleration in Gs:

Figure 3.2: Example of a Time-Acceleration Plot

The magnitude, direction, and duration between peaks of the shock profile depend on several factors including the weapon’s caliber, barrel length, method of operation, the firing event (single shot or multiple round burst), shooter position (prone, standing, bench-supported, sandbag or bipod supported), etc.

Time-acceleration data is turn is converted to frequency space into what is known as a Shock Response Spectrum (SRS) curve. The generation of these curves requires specific expertise and will not be discussed in this report. Suffice it to say that software is available to generate SRS curves given a damping assumption. An example SRS plot of curves for each axis, taken on a weapon sight on a carbine, is shown below in Figure 3.3.

Figure 3.3: Example of SRS Curves for Three Axes, Single Shot Firing Event

Shock values taken from locations other than on the actual component in question will have peak acceleration values at frequencies other than if the data were taken on the component. This is a function of both the materials and the structures of the different components. The acceleration peaks collected experimentally should be used as worst case values later in modeling. If the optomechanical system is meant to go on more than one weapon, use the highest shock scenario of all of them. In other words, use the worst-case scenario as a baseline. This presents the possibility that, if acceleration data was collected at locations other than the component in question, the magnitude and duration of the acceleration peaks could provide a margin of safety over the peak acceleration on the component in question and at a similar frequency.

Guideline #5: When designing to withstand weapon shock, consider only the peak acceleration values.
For instance, the peak acceleration from the data shown in Figure 3 would be approximately 1070 Gs, and the peak acceleration from Figure 4 would be 1100 Gs along the transverse axis.

4. Finite Element Analysis
Once shock values are known, static or transient dynamic analyses of the optomechanical system can be performed. The quickest and most accurate means of modeling is to use finite element software. Traditional finite element modeling tools can be used to analyze stresses, strains, vibration, and fatigue of almost any solid design. You will quickly learn that standard commercial packages such as Pro/MECHANICA and SolidWorks may lack the flexibility and computational power for modeling shock, depending on the scope of the analysis. (In general, this limitation is related to cyclic loading, or dynamic analyses.)
4.1 Input
Finite element response modeling requires the input of a CAD model of the component under consideration, and definition of the associated constraints and forces on the component at appropriate nodes along the mesh. It is also necessary to input the material properties of the component. Depending on the analysis to be done, these material properties will likely be density, Young’s and shear modulii, yield strength, ultimate tensile strength, and Poisson ratio.
4.2 Assumptions
Finite element modeling often requires making assumptions that are not necessarily valid for the system configuration but are necessary to create the model. In the “assume a spherical horse” spirit of modeling and simulation, the flexure analysis required the sight’s rear housing and optical bench to be treated as rigid bodies. While this is an appropriate assumption for an optical bench constrained by its own metal housing, it is not completely valid for sight housings made of plastics or uniaxial composites. However, it is recommended that, within reason, all models of optomechanical system components use the same assumption of a rigid housing in order to model shock transfer with no losses. Thus, the next guideline:
Guideline #6: Make valid assumptions to facilitate finite element modeling.
4.3 Limitations
A complication with commercial finite element packages is that when dealing with fatigue analyses, the packages may not be capable of incorporating a time step for cyclic loading on the order of a millisecond seen in weapon shock. Thus, a modified procedure to simulate cyclic loading must be created. This requires a powerful modeling package which can be manipulated by the user.
4.4 Procedure
To illustrate a procedure by which to model weapon shock, consider the case study of the flexure fatigue analysis. To create a finite element model for weapon shock, use the experimentally measured time-acceleration histories in each orthogonal direction to determine the worst-case loading scenario. This, as explained above, can be easily distinguished by comparing the peak SRS curve values or by pulling maximum values from the time-acceleration history. Some powerful software package must be used in order to manipulate the time constant of the program to achieve an accurate time step for the analysis. This was the main complication with the flexure fatigue analysis; cyclic rate settings for most finite element fatigue models are nowhere near a weapon’s discharge rate, so a load duration value had to be implemented for the shock pulse and repeated thousands of times. There may be tradeoffs between the program’s ability to incorporate the time step and complete a nodal analysis using a mesh that will yield the most accurate results. This depends on the program and the complexity of the component to be modeled.
Assumptions must also be made to define constraints and forces acting on the structure being modeled. In the case of the flexure analysis, the peak acceleration values were applied to the housing end and at contact pads on the optical bench where the bench interfaced with the flexure. The model was constrained at the rear to the housing. Careful consideration should be given to defining points at which loads act:
Guideline #7: Be careful with constraint and applied load locations.
In the case of the flexure fatigue analysis, it was necessary to determine the strain time histories at specific locations determined to be “critical.” For the most part, critical locations in finite element analyses are at radii and other points of concentrated stress. Next, the strain time histories at the surface nodes were used in further analyses described below. This could also have been accomplished by using unit load analysis results and the associated input acceleration time histories.
Further sensitivity and fatigue life analyses were conducted using the strain time histories modeled on the parts. The fatigue life analysis predicted the number of cycles to failure on the component using the stress/strain output from the first analysis. The sensitivity analysis was used to optimize the component design and determine a cost-effective and machinable material that would yield a fatigue life with a factor of safety high enough so that the sight would be guaranteed to meet its endurance requirements.

5. Resources on Weapon Shock and Finite Element Analysis
Publicly available resources on weapon shock are rare, as most case studies are conducted by weapon manufacturers and are proprietary, or by Government and Defense agencies and are classified or confined to limited distribution.
Lecuyer’s paper on maintaining optical integrity in a high-shock environment examines optical and mechanical techniques to ensure system performance in shock environments up to 500 Gs is a useful resource focused on system design. It provides significant insight into shock conditions and solutions.
Luckily, resources on finite element modeling packages are abundant. Researching Pro/MECHANICA, SolidWorks, and Nastran’s websites should provide adequate information to determine whether the software has sufficient capability to model a specific optomechanical component. If performing simpler, linear static or thermal analyses, Pro/MECHANICA is a user-friendly software choice that is directly compatible with Pro/ENGINEER CAD models. For weapon shock analysis, it is best to proceed straight to Nastran or a similar high-powered package.

6. Conclusion
This report is meant to disclose a unique and previously uncompiled set of guidelines related to weapon shock effects on optomechanical components and systems, as well as background information on why they are relevant. They have been derived from lessons learned from designing weapon-mounted optics for the military. As such, they assume that the systems need to survive extreme shock environments and extensive reliability requirements. The ability to implement the guidelines also assumes access to necessary resources including weapons, electronic equipment, and powerful finite element tools to sufficiently model the effects of weapon shock.
Some or all of these guidelines should be applicable to other static or dynamic analyses of both optical and mechanical systems. Their utility can beyond extended beyond load-bearing structures to glass components, focal planes, etc. For engineers specifically concerned with weapon shock, it is strongly recommended to follow each guideline presented that relates to the collection of acceleration data.

7. References
Lecuyer, J.G. “Maintaining Optical Integrity in a High-Shock Environment.” Proc. Of SPIE Vol. 0250, Optomechanical Systems Design, 1980.
Nastran website: http://www.nenastran.com/index.php?gclid=CI7pz9T2j4kCFQacFQod-wgczA
Pro/MECHANICA website: http://www.ptc.com/appserver/mkt/products/home.jsp?&k=1183
SolidWorks website: http://www.solidworks.com/pages/products/3dmech.html

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