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A military transport vehicle with Cargo Tie-Downs in use

Cargo Tie-Down

Client: U.S. Navy, Office of Naval Research
  • Technology Development
  • System Architecture
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Software Engineering
  • Design for Manufacturing
  • Regulatory Compliance

A tie-down system for military cargo that automatically adjusts to maintain tension during transport and wirelessly disengage on command.

The Office of Naval Research (ONR), a U.S. Navy agency focused on scientific and technological development, needed to replace the outdated, heavy chain-and-buckle system that the military had used to secure cargo for decades.

Our team responded to the project bid with not only the required written proposal, but also working prototypes to demonstrate our initial ideas. Impressed with our initiative and capabilities, the ONR engaged us in this technology investigation.

A close-up of traditional chains being used to tie down a military vehicle

Existing system composed of unwieldy chains and buckles

For decades, the Navy used heavy chains to secure cargo, such as trucks and Humvees, on amphibious craft. When vehicle wheels would deflate or vehicle suspension would fail, the system would lose tension.

A Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) vehicle on the water

Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) vehicles encounter rough seas

In rough sea conditions, this loss in tension results in loss of control of cargo, endangering crew and the craft. In order to prevent this, the new tie-downs needed to maintain constant tension, keeping cargo firmly in place throughout transport.

An exploded diagram of the Cargo Tie-Down, paired with a photo of the Cargo Tie-Down being used to secure a military vehicle

We replaced the heavy, 60 lbs of metal chains with 2 lbs of polymer composite webbing, which provides the same 30,000 lb tension capacity. This lightweight webbing is secured by a dynamic tensioning mechanism that, when change in force is detected, automatically tightens to maintain tension.

  1. 01Composite webbing interior color indicates wear and need for replacement
  2. 02Waterproof, durable housing built to withstand extreme conditions
  3. 03Induction charging eliminates need for open ports
01 A close-up of a gloved hand inspecting the Cargo Tie-Down's composite webbing
02 An animated timelapse, showing the Cargo Tie-Down hooked to a military vehicle and being tested in an environment with strong rains and winds
03 A diagram displaying the outer casing and charging port of the Cargo Tie-Down
Two military crew members attempting to unlatch traditional chains from a military vehicle

Current system puts crew in the line of fire

A tactical disadvantage of the previous chain system was its unwieldy de-rigging process. When the ship arrived at a destination, crew members had to manually release the heavy chains on deck, risking exposure to enemy fire.

Our team designed the updated system to be released remotely. Instead of grappling with unwieldy fastenings, crew members can send an encrypted wireless command to one or multiple devices, causing smart polymer alloys in the mechanism to constrict and release the clasp instantly. In case of emergency, a simple manual release mechanism can be quickly activated with one pull.

Detailed sketches of the Cargo Tie-Down quick-latch mechanism, paired with a image of the computer software interface

Interface enables remote release and inventory monitoring

Throughout the course of this project, we conducted monthly daylong briefings to update stakeholders and drive the project forward. By concisely reporting the project’s progress and presenting clear options and context for next steps, we enabled a broad set of contributors to make informed decisions, allowing the project to advance efficiently.

As a result of our effective organization and communication, we completed the project within budget, on schedule, and meeting all the requirements. The Navy was pleased to be able to provide enhanced safety and efficiency for its crews, and the new cargo tie-downs are currently being utilized by multiple military branches.

Cargo Tie-Downs being used to secure a military vehicle