Original Date: 09/14/1998
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : Methylenedianiline Composite Replacement
As composite technology’s popularity and acceptance in military applications increased, more researchers began looking into the health and safety factors of composite materials in regard to the workforce. Methylenedianiline (MDA),a suspected carcinogen, turned out to be one of the riskiest materials. Previously used in four of its products, Raytheon Missile Systems Company (RMSC) has now eliminated MDA composite material from its manufacturing processes. The use of MDA had required RMSC operators to wear personal protective clothing (e.g., Tyvek body suits, special gloves); take showers during breaks, lunch, and at the end of the day; and be subjected to routine medical tests.
Although no regulatory agency pushed for the elimination of MDA, RMSC wanted to remove this potential health risk from its workers. Several alternative technologies were available on the open market, but few provided the temperature and working pressure data needed to consider them as MDA substitutes for missiles. Senior leadership at RMSC directed the change to take place anyway, but doubted the possibility of savings. Teams were assembled to investigate and test multiple composite products for feasibility. Among the factors to be considered were the unique characteristics of the Standard Missile’s dorsal fin and the AMRAAM’s spacer, absorber pad, and harness cover.
The MDA replacement process took three years to complete, and provided RMSC with several unexpected benefits. Among these were minimal modifications for tooling; a significant decrease in cycle times; and the elimination of personal protective clothing, showers, and routine medical tests. In addition, the company realized an overall production savings in excess of $200,000 annually. RMSC’s approach to the MDA situation shows that benefits can be realized through self-imposed changes prior to the involvement of regulatory agencies.
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