Safety Equipment Standards Blog
In one way or another, we all benefit from some of nature’s most incredible materials. For example; wood, an amazing material that is both versatile and strong. We use it to manufacture paper, build houses, and a plethora of things in between. How about wool? It has been made with insulation so efficacious, sheep can live outside all winter and can stand in the snow.
Another amazing material is skin because of its ability to repair itself instantly and in many cases completely in a short period of time. It is not uncommon for skin to heal itself so well that any evidence of a scratch or injury seemingly becomes invisible. What do all of these materials have in common? Well, they are all incredible in their function, but are far from perfect, especially when it comes to performance with the unanticipated dangers and challenges we face in our modern world.
How Kevlar Improved on Nature
Due to the varying safety challenges we face today, science has afforded us the opportunity to create wonderfully effective synthetic materials like Kevlar. Even though Kevlar is considered to be a plastic material, it is so strong, it has the ability to stop knives and bullets. In fact, it is described by many as being stronger than steel.
When most of us think of Kevlar, we think of the bullet proof vests worn by police officers and the military. with Kevlar’s strength, it makes complete sense that most of us would associate vests made from Kevlar with our service men in women who work in dangerous conditions.
Thanks to this amazing synthetic material, law enforcement can be both safe and more effective at their jobs. It’s important to understand that while this steel-like plastic material will most likely save a person’s life from a bullet or an attempt to stab another person, they may still experience a blunt force trauma type of injury in the process.
Kevlar is not only found in bullet proof vests, but it also has many other uses. For example, it is used to make boats, to reinforce brake pads and tires, and it is often found in a many other different types of safety equipment, like in these Kevlar Arm Guards for example. Similar to nature’s wood, Kevlar is quite versatile and is often found in some of the most unexpected things and is used by some of the most unexpected occupations.
What Makes Kevlar so Good
As if a plastic material being compared to steel isn’t already enough to set itself apart from the rest. Check out what else makes Kevlar even more amazing than it already is.
- Even though it’s strong, it’s very lightweight.
- It’s great at resisting higher temperatures and it does not melt but decomposes at about 850 degrees Fahrenheit.
- It can be ignited, but burning stops once the heat source is gone.
- It doesn’t degrade in low temperatures.
- It can protect against attacks from chemicals and acids.
- It is not affected by moisture or prolonged exposure to hot water.
Who can use materials made with Kevlar?
As mentioned earlier, Kevlar is not only used as an antiballistic material in items such as bullet proof vests and other body protection, but it can also be found in several other types of materials for a variety of uses. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the different people and industries that could possibly use products made with this “strong-as-steel” plastic.
People working in any law enforcement position (some on-scene medical personnel and educators do as well) are known to use Kevlar. From prison officers to military body armor, civil protection vests to stab vests for paramedics, and bounty hunters. Depending on the conditions in which many people in these occupations are expected to work, a protective vest made with Kevlar at the very least is worn.
Paramedics wear vests and protective gear made from Kevlar when they are expected to help patients in situations where the people in the area may be under gun fire or conditions with different types of debris in the air. Depending on the situation and the occupation, Kevlar vests are made with different layers (up to eight) to protect the user from certain types of blows. For example, military protection gear is typically made with eight layers of Kevlar since military personnel are more likely to end up in situations where they may have to sustain blows from high-powered rifles.
Depending on the job and the materials worked with, construction workers are also known to use Kevlar Arm Guards, Kevlar gloves, and Kevlar inserts, which is extra padding workers can wear underneath other protective gear to help give that added layer of protection when working with dangerous equipment such as chainsaws.
Remember we mentioned how it’s not easy to cut through anything made with Kevlar? Metal fabricators and anyone handling glass also use Kevlar safety gear and equipment due to the fact that it’s highly cut and puncture resistant. It’s easy to say that anyone working in these types of jobs and in these conditions are most certainly glad that they have protective gear made from bulletproof material protecting their hands and body.
Not only for hazardous occupations
The use of Kevlar is not limited to hazardous occupations, rather, it can also be used for potentially hazardous activities in the home or outside of the home as well. For example, oven mitts have also been made with it and even those cooking with grease in commercial kitchens use materials made with Kevlar. That’s not all, pot holders and other kitchen materials are also made with it.
Interestingly, Reebok CrossFit footwear as well as some of their accessories are made with Kevlar fiber to help make these products lightweight and strong. Adidas also uses Kevlar fiber in one of their lines of football cleats. A company called ‘Draggin’ uses it to make jeans for motorcycle riding and Bauer has a skate sock for hockey players made with Kevlar fiber to provide feet with cut-resistant protection.
The list of materials and items made using Kevlar and/or its fibers seems to go on forever and we couldn’t possibly list them all. However, to further demonstrate its strength and durability, DuPont, the company that created Kevlar, has also invented the only in-house storm room that uses this incredible plastic to reinforce it. The storm room shelter can withstand blows from flying wood and other materials at winds speeds up to 250 MPH, while bolted down of course.
The woman behind Kevlar
Stepahanie Kwolek, a DuPont Chemist in a predominantly male occupation, invented Kevlar’s stronger-than-steel fiber in 1965, which is used today in all of the products (and many others) mentioned in this article.
In an interview during the ‘Women in Chemistry’ Series, Kwolek said,
"I knew that I had made a discovery, I didn't shout 'Eureka,' but I was very excited, as was the whole laboratory excited, and management was excited because we were looking for something new, something different, and this was it."
Soon after Stephanie’s discovery, Kevlar’s fiber immediately went to work and started being used life-saving equipment and materials and has gone on to save countless lives and prevent countless injuries throughout the years. The interesting thing about it is that it’s a spun fiber from liquid polymers with each fiber coming out stiff and strong. Each exceptionally tough fiber is up to fives times stronger by weight than steel. It was an incredible man-made discovery indeed.
Kevlar vs. the Alternatives
Between the brief synopsis of Kevlar’s back story coupled with many of the different materials made with this incredible plastic and its stronger-than-steel fibers, all of this information definitely paints a clear picture of the efficacy of Kevlar’s ability to protect and make materials and structures stronger. Its lightweight properties contribute to its versatility because it allows people to wear clothing and equipment made with it without being weighed down.
Like us, you’re probably wondering of there are any alternatives to Kevlar, and just like most other inventions, there are a few different modern-day alternatives that have already been developed. Intriguingly, some of the alternatives are both cheaper than Kevlar and claim to be as strong, if not stronger than it. As an illustration, a company in Alpharetta, Georgia has invented a material called ABC-Matrix.
ABC-Matrix is said to be just as tough only much cheaper to make and it is made by melting polymers from recycled plastics. Similar to Kevlar, it is also flame retardant and waterproof. It has been tested and found to withstand 3,000 rounds fired from an AK-47 rifle. Additionally, and probably the most intriguing, the materials in ABC-Matrix apparently meld back together after taking a hit from a bullet.
Another material called Nanocellulose is also trying to steel the spotlight and is allegedly up to eight times the tensile strength of steel. It is made from wood pulp and is formed into a type of paste. Computer companies have a strong interest in it for computer parts and The Department of Defense has a strong interest in using for automotive and medical devices. It is also a much cheaper alternative.
A person will of course find some interesting materials with comparable properties and capabilities, but none of them have the history and track record that Kevlar does. With all of the properties found in Kevlar compared with its cheaper alternatives, it is clear that Kevlar is still one of the most versatile steel-like fibers with the fibers being built into and used across multiple products and industries. It is also one of the most trusted when it comes to safety equipment and protection gear and its technology is patented.
Why Use Kevlar Armguards
Getting back to Kevlar arm guards, it’s plain to see how arm guards made with such incredible properties is definitely the way to go. After much research, few armguard designs compare to Kevlar’s technology found in the Total Defense Kevlar Armguard with Hycar.
To add to the stronger-than-steel durability and strength already built into the Total Defense armguards, they have also been designed with Hycar, a nitrile rubber that is superior to neoprene but is a natural rubber excellent for cut, abrasion, and puncture resistance. Hycar (or nitrile) is also incredibly resistant to a variety of oils and fats and acids, making Kevlar armguards an excellent choice for variety of industries and occupations.
Most other armguards are mainly made out of polyester or neoprene, or many of them are thick, awkward, and difficult to wear for use while working on important tasks that require arm protection and new designs seem light. The main question is, are they durable enough to keep wrists and arms safe while handling abrasive, sharp, or potentially hazardous materials? If they are not made with Kevlar or any of the similar alternatives referenced, most armguards available will not meet the safety demands of most tasks.
When it comes to safety, no one can really be too careful. It is so important that workers equip themselves with safety gear and equipment made with superior and trusted materials to ensure the highest level of safety in any job. Kevlar is one of those materials and has been around since 1965, and as most of us already know, it is effective in keeping public service workers and workers in more hazardous working conditions safe. No matter what type of alternatives are invented, Kevlar is definitely here to stay, so make sure your safety gear is made with tougher-than-steel Kevlar.