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Armor and ballistic shielding refers to materials that are made of ceramics, high-strength fiber textiles, specialty alloys, and composite materials that are resistant to explosions, blast debris, shrapnel and high-velocity projectiles. They represent important materials systems in military, law enforcement, aerospace, and automotive applications. Products that incorporate armor and ballistic shielding include body armor, personal protective gear, protective clothing, bulletproof vests, ballistic body armor, steel armor plates, vehicle armor, and ceramic tiles.

 

Ceramic armor materials and ballistic materials are usually made of alumina, zirconia-toughened alumina blends, boron carbide, or silicon carbide. They are used in body armor, personal protective armor, vehicle armor, rifle-resistant-armor, and structural composite armor. Ceramic plates are sold as individual tiles or complete tile kits. Length, width, thickness, and area are dimensional specifications to consider. Common sizes include 4 x 4, 2 x 2, full, half, and custom. Density, median grain size, and typical tolerance are also important specifications. Mechanical properties for ceramic armor and ballistic materials include flexural strength, compressive strength, Young’s modulus, fracture toughness, shear modulus, Poisson ratio, and hardness. To prevent tensile failure and cracking, a fiber backing may be used. 

 

High-strength fiber textiles are used in armor materials and ballistic materials such as bulletproof vests. Kevlar, a registered trademark of DuPont, is a very strong , heat-resistant, aramid weave. Kevlar 29, the type of Kevlar used in bulletproof vests, is relatively lightweight. Other high-strength textiles used in armor and ballistic materials are made of heterocyclic aramid fibers; poly- or para-phenyleneterephthalamide (PPTA); ultra high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE); and polyphenylene-2,6-benzobisoxazole (PBO). Gel-spun polyethylene yards, cut-resistant polymeric sheets, woven ballistic fabric laminates, and other penetration-resistant fabrics are also available. Proprietary armor and ballistic materials that are made of high-strength fibers include para-aramid fibers such as Fiber X or Arenka, and Twaron (Tejiin Aramid).

 

Armor materials are also incorporated into military vehicles, often with varying degrees of ballistic resistance depending upon the arms fire that the vehicle is expected to encounter. For example, a tank may incorporate metallic reactive armor to protect against heavy artillery (a type of armor which detonates away from the tank to destroy the projectile), while a Humvee is likely to have less robust composite elements to protect againt small arms and shrapnel.

 

Metal armor materials and ballistic materials are usually made of aluminum alloys or steel. Aluminum armor alloys may contain varying amounts of zinc, magnesium, copper, chromium, iron and silicon. Yield strength, universal tensile strength (UTS), elongation, and density are important specifications to consider. Steel armor and ballistic materials also carry these product specifications, but have a very high toughness relative to other high-hard alloys. Typically, steel armor plate contains nickel, chromium, molybdenum, and small amounts of sulfur. MIL-A-46100D, a U.S. military specification, is a common standard. To reduce vehicle weight and improve performance, titanium armor and ballistic materials are also under development.

Selecting ballistic materials  Selecting vehicle armor

Images credits: Honeywell Now; AMCG Ltd.

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