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DuPont announces new Kevlar technology
Monday June 16, 5:02 pm ET

DuPont says new, lighter weight Kevlar provides better protection from bullets

DOVER, Del. (AP) -- New Kevlar technology will allow the production of body armor that provides better bullet-stopping power at a lighter weight, the DuPont Co. said Monday.

Using a new woven fabric technology, coupled with a new coating process, DuPont said it has found a way to deliver improved ballistic performance using its existing Kevlar aramid fiber.

"The bottom line is that it stops bullets faster," said Dale Outhous, global business director for DuPont's personal protection unit

According to DuPont, Kevlar XP can stop bullets within the first three layers of an 11-layer body armor vest, allowing the remaining layers to absorb the energy of a bullet. Outhous said a typical vest in use now would have 20 to 40 layers of material, with a minimum of nine layers needed to stop the bullet.

In addition to better penetration protection, the new technology also better dissipates the energy from a bullet, resulting in less blunt force trauma to the wearer from what is called "backface deformation" of a vest, DuPont said. Such trauma typically consists of bruising and minor rib fractures, according to Dr. Deborah Stein of the University of Maryland's Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

Michael Foreman of Point Blank Solutions, a Florida-based body armor manufacturer, said his company already has produced two prototype products with the new Kevlar technology, and that it should help manufacturers meet more stringent body armor standards being developed by the National Institute of Justice.

"What we're seeing is a very good performance at a lower weight," he said.

While DuPont is looking at a range of applications, including military use, the new Kevlar technology is being targeted initially at better protection against high-caliber handguns for law enforcement officers. According to DuPont, Kevlar XP provides 15 percent less backface deformation and at least a 10 percent lighter weight vest design against one of the most challenging handgun threats, a .44-caliber Magnum bullet.

Outhous said he expects vests incorporating the new technology to be available to law enforcement officers later this summer, and to fall within the existing price range for body armor vests of between $400 to $1,000.

While the new technology will help protect lives, DuPont believes it will also strengthen Kevlar's position against competitors in the ballistic protection market, including high-strength polyethylene fibers made by Honeywell and Dutch manufacturer DSM.

DuPont began making the new technology available to body armor manufacturers around the world about a month ago. Of 15 customers sampled, two have placed firm orders and five are pending, according to company spokeswoman Cathy Andriadis.

DuPont refused to release specific sales figures for Kevlar, which was first used for ballistic protection in the 1970s. But Andriadis said textile apparels such as Kevlar and Nomex account for about 20 percent of revenue in its safety and protection unit, which reported revenue of about $5.6 billion last year.

DuPont has supplied Kevlar for use in body armor and helmets used by the military for decades. The company also is a major supplier of Kevlar for armor protection on tanks, Humvees and other military vehicles.

Last year, DuPont announced that it will invest $500 million for a new Kevlar production facility in South Carolina that is expected to open in 2010. DuPont said the new plant, which represents the company's single-largest investment in Kevlar since the fiber was invented more than 40 years ago, will help boost global production of Kevlar by more than 25 percent.

Outhous said Kevlar XP is part of a DuPont effort to launch 1,000 new personal protection products by 2015.

Source: Associated Press

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