MRIGlobal Defense
The IPEMS robot is fully dressed in a standard individual protection ensemble protective gear. For the first time, the military can conduct high-quality and reproducible tests of protective equipment without using a human subject. Photo courtesy of MRIGlobal.

MRIGlobal recently announced the conclusion of a five-year program to produce a mannequin robot and high-containment chamber to test protective clothing under a range of conditions for the U.S. Department of Defense. University of New Mexico alumnus Mark Abashian was the program manager and helped spearhead the project.

The program, called the Individual Protection Ensemble Mannequin System (IPEMS), was awarded in November 2008 to MRIGlobal, which assembled a team of experts from across the country.

Abashian, who graduated from UNM with a Master of Science in Geology in 1984 and who has been with MRIGlobal for about six years, led the project from its inception through the design, procurement, and most of the fabrication work for both the mannequin and the test chamber.

“The close collaboration with our Government counterparts during design- and program-review meetings was critical to the IPEMS's success,” Abashian said. “I'm privileged to have led those efforts. It was especially rewarding when our component and system performance-verification testing showed that this first-of-a-kind system worked well.”

Currently, protective gear is tested using human subjects who perform defined activities in an environment with non-toxic chemical simulants that mimic behavior of chemical warfare agents.

“This program is designed to provide data on the effectiveness of protective equipment for military personnel when exposed to highly dangerous chemicals,” said a representative of the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense. “The mannequin mimics human movements and physical responses, allowing for safe testing of full Individual Protective Ensembles (IPE) with chemical warfare agents.”

When the IPEMS project is fully completed, the military will be able to test a soldier’s IPE on an advanced robotic mannequin with a full range of motion, capable of simulating human movement while exposed to various chemical warfare agents. The tests will occur in a variety of environmental conditions, be fully reproducible, and provide a near real-time indication (alarm) of chemical intrusion into the IPE.  

“The IPEMS Program is an example of the innovative, first-of-a-kind development, testing, and evaluation (DT&E) work that MRIGlobal performs to keep our nation’s military troops safe,” Abashian said. “It involved a wide range of technical disciplines and the expertise of both MRIGlobal and five subcontractors.

The Individual Protection Ensemble Mannequin System now resides at the Army’s Dugway Proving Ground, Utah.

For more information about MRIGlobal, visit: MRIGlobal.