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Is that a Kevlar vest? - The development of bulletproof materials

Although soft armor materials had long been experimented with, it was not until the 1970s that effective soft body armor became widely available. Several companies had done plenty of research on soft armor materials but the american company DuPont ™ took the lead with a newly developed para-aramid fiber which was given the brand name Kevlar®. Kevlar quickly made a big impact and was used by both the US military and police departments.

A similar para-aramid fiber, developed in the 1970s by Akzo ™ and named Twaron®, was launched in 1986. (Twaron is today owned by Teijin Aramid).

In 1990, DSM released a polyethylene-based ballistic fiber under the Dyneema® brand. Dyneema is not a para-aramid but a so-called ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE). Dyneema was discovered as early as the 1960s but underwent a long period of development before it was ready for the market.

The ballistic materials of today

Para-aramid and UHMWPE are still the technologies that dominate in the production of soft body armour, but there are now many more manufacturers. On the one hand, there are a number of companies that manufacture their own variants of para-aramid and UHMWPE under their own brands, and on the other hand, a lot of Chinese-made ditto of inferior quality is produced and sold cheaply and without any brand name. Honeywell with its very well regarded Spectra Shield and Gold Shield product lines and ongoing research and development is an example of the former and a very serious contender against the older brands. Both Kevlar, Twaron and Dyneema remain among the most vibrant brands and the owner companies continue to develop new variants of the products. The fiber material can e.g. be woven or laminated with different techniques, different densities and combinations.

In contrast to the 1970s, Kevlar is today just a brand among many others. Because Kevlar was the first successful brand and for a long time dominated the American market, the name became synonymous with soft ballistic protection.

The question in the title is thus a question that we get regularly and with "Kevlar" the questioner usually refers to soft body armour in general and not a specific brand. Sometimes, however, the question refers to aramid and in rare cases, the Kevlar brand is actually referred to. It may therefore take a while to find out what the questioner means. But we have to rejoice in Kevlar®, which has managed to achieve the same status as Kleenex®, Aspirin®, Post-it® and a handful of other successful brands that have become synonymous with a product.

Which material is the best?

So which material is the best? We have chosen to primarily sell soft armor made with materials from Honeywell and Teijin. All manufacturers and sellers want to emphasize their own product, but the truth is that it is more important to choose a well-known brand than which brand you choose. By buying armour from a well-known brand such as Twaron, Dyneema, Kevlar or Goldshield, you get predictability regarding classification, performance, durability during the warranty period, etc.

If you buy armour of unknown origin, the actual classification is unknown, the material may be uneven in quality and pass one test but not another, the material may be affected abnormally much by use, and so on. Predictability is a must when it comes to products that is supposed to protect lives.

In terms of practical differences between the materials, Goldshield, Twaron® and Kevlar® (para-aramid) are often softer and more comfortable than Dyneema® (UHMWPE). The ballistic ability and knife protection ability are equivalent at a given level of protection, while UHMWPE has slightly better stab protection in relation to its panel weight.

Our recommendation is to stick to well-known quality brands and choose a reliable dealer, even if this is more expensive compared to buying a cheap vest of an unknown brand. Click here to see our range of bulletproof vests.



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