Extremely strong and heat resistant, aramids are a class of synthetic fibres pioneered by DuPont™ in the early 1960s. DuPont™’s meta-aramid Nomax® was supplanted by the para-aramid, Kevlar® in 1973, which revolutionized the body armour industry. In particular, para-aramid materials introduced inherent flexibility and lightweight properties that allowed the development of vests comfortable to the wearer, yet hard wearing and highly protective. Kevlar® and Twaron® are para-aramid materials commonly utilized in bullet proof vests, and have been on the market for three decades.
The chemistry involved in creating aramids typically involves the formation of an AABB polymer through a reaction between carboxylic group and an amine group molecules. Spun together with sulfuric acid, the blended liquid becomes solid and can be marketed in pulp, powder, or fiber form.
Since its development in the early 1970s, Kevlar® production has been refined significantly. The initial Kevlar® 29 was innovative in allowing the manufacture of protective panels that combined flexibility with concealability. The result was a lightweight product that people were comfortable wearing on an everyday basis. In 1988 DuPont™ developed Kevlar® 129 for body armor use, a product that was significantly lighter than its predecessor and had improved ballistic resistance capacities. Kevlar® 129 was even able to resist high-velocity rounds from guns such as the 9mm FMJ. Kevlar® Correctional is the most recently released version of Kevlar®. Introduced in 1995, it protects against knife and other weapon threats, and has led to the production of multi-threat vests that can halt both bullet and stab attacks.
Known as UHMWPE, ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene is another common ballistic panel material that is present in a variety of body armor products. With characteristics similar to para-aramids, UHMWPE is a polyolefin composed of extremely long polyethylene chains. There are several techniques of creating UHMWPE, including compression molding and ram extrusion. For the purposes of body armor production, UHMWPE is formed through gel-spinning, which involves creating a gel material by drawing dissolved ethylene through a number of tiny holes. With twin pieces of gel sealed under polyethylene film, a composite is generated that can be manufactured into soft armour ballistic panels, or rigid plates of hard armour. With research demonstrating that UHMWPE strength-to-weight ratios are as much as 40 percent higher than para-aramid fibres, UHMWPE-based body armour made from Spectra® and Dyneema® is increasingly associated with high-end models.
Utilizing advanced moisture management technologies, CoolMAX® material has thin and lightweight properties that make its use common in many types of performance clothing. CoolMAX® is primarily used for covert vests covers, with the moisture wick system drawing sweat away from the wearer’s body and keeping the skin cool.
The high tenacity fiber technologies in Cordura® make it ideal for use in hard wearing products such as overt vests, which must stand up to the rigors of everyday use.
Gore-Tex® combines waterproof qualities with breathability, and it’s a common technology in consumer products from backpacks to shoes. Gore-Tex® is particularly utilized in bullet proof vest covers worn by police officers throughout the world.