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« em: Dezembro 06, 2004, 04:22:40 pm »
Gel-In-the-Middle" Eases Topside Connector Maintenance
(Source: US Navy; issued Dec. 3, 2004)
 WASHINGTON --- Naval Sea Systems Command's Fleet Naval Engineering Group & Maintenance Process Improvement (SEA 05N) has lowered the U.S. Navy's cost of maintenance for topside connector preservation by $69 million by introducing the Gel-In-the-Middle Connector Protector (GIMCP) into the fleet.  
The $69 million in maintenance cost avoidance was announced by Engineering for Reduced Maintenance (a SEA 05N program) Program Manager Vernon Parrish in November.  
"This is truly the 'real deal' for weatherproofing the topside equipment connections," said Parrish. "Gel-In-the-Middle makes topside connector maintenance much easier for Sailors in the fleet."  
The GIMCP is a uniquely designed, rubber tube-like covering that is vulcanized together with an inner silicone gel-based lubricant —the Gel-In-the-Middle —that can be rolled on and off splices, fittings and connectors to facilitate periodic inspection and maintenance access, while still providing a weather-tight seal when inspections or maintenance actions are complete.  
Traditionally, shipboard topside—or unsheltered—equipment such as radar, navigation, communications and fire control had connections weatherproofed by cold shrink, heat shrink, or the tape and Scotchkote method, which offer adequate protection, but are not reuseable and are cumbersome to install. The tool-free re-entry and recloseable GIMCP makes maintenance much easier because of the simplicity of removal and reinstallation of the gel sleeves, increased safety due to less time spent working aloft and offers significant cost avoidance due to the reusability aspect of the GIMCP.  
The $69 million cost avoidance attained through use of the GIMCP is largely due to the reusability of the connector, according to Parrish.  
"The ease of re-entering a connector after a period of time is very accommodating," Parrish said. "Reusing the same protector is very cost effective and labor hours are significantly reduced."  
Rather than having to cut or scrape off the sleeve for maintenance, as in conventional sealing methods, such as tapes, cold applied tubes and coatings, GIMCP's sleeve is simply rolled off for re-entry of the connector and rolled back on the connector to provide for weatherproofing.  
Approved for Navy shipboard use for all topside connectors in May 2003, approximately 3,000 GIMCP covers are installed on 60 ships, including amphibious ships, frigates, cruisers and destroyers.  
GIMCP can be used where an electrical or radio frequency antenna connector is routinely disconnected and then re-connected for maintenance. Some application examples include: UHF, VHF and HF antennas; satellite weather information gathering systems; satellite communications systems; navigation systems; radar systems; camera surveillance systems; chemical; biological and radiation defense systems; wireless systems; fire-control systems; and electronic-warfare systems.  
In addition to saving the Navy a significant amount of money, the GIMCP has been well received by the fleet.  
"[The GIMCP] is some pretty neat stuff that should cut down considerably on hours expended in weatherproofing connectors," said Cmdr. Gary E. Perkins, of commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.  
The GIMCP handbook (SE000-AC-HBK-010) is available for installers and/ or maintainers in the fleet to carry as a pocket reference for the standard practices used for the installation of GIMCP. The device has a minimum life cycle of eight years, with an anticipated life cycle of up to 12 years.