The first product placed on the market which was used to create bulletproof vests was Kevlar. Afterwards, Spectra fibers were created and became the competition for a Kevlar vest. Although there have been other products that have been created, such as Zylon, these two products remain the major players today.
Kevlar was created in 1965 by Stephanie Kwolek at DuPont. The process by which the thread is made is called polymerization. Put simply, the liquid polymers are passed through a metal plate that has many holes on it and all the single strands come together to form the Kevlar yarn. This yarn is then used to weave the cloth to make the armor. To increase the strength of the cloth for the body armour, many layers are added together to create the desired level of protection.
Unlike Kevlar, Spectra fibers (created by the Allied Signal Company) are not woven together. Instead, the fibers are laid parallel to each other and a special resin is used to hold them in place. Then the process is repeated again to create another piece of cloth. The second piece of cloth is turned ninety degrees and is laid on top of the first cloth and then the resin is applied to bond these two sheets together. The end product is a non-woven cloth.
This resistant material is a synthetic polymer that is commonly used in tennis racquets and other applications. It was created by a Japanese manufacturer called Toyobo and was used for body armor products starting in 1998. However, the product began to have problems in 2005. Second Chance Body Armor made bulletproof vests that used the Zylon product, but later learned that the material degraded at a rapid rate.
Toyobo would later settle a large class-action lawsuit in the United States and the settlement included covering legal expenses for attorneys and creating a fund to help replace officers’ bulletproof vests. The company also agreed to provide police departments with discounts for five years so that they could replace their bulletproof vests affordably.
While it is clear that not all bulletproof products are the same, the tried and true materials will continue to be used to create quality body armor. There have been newer versions of Kevlar and Spectra that are providing lighter and stronger protection to law enforcement individuals. You can be sure that more unique products are going to be developed in the future that will provide the same protection or better.