There are quite a few “Made in America” companies at the ShotShow and it’s nice to see some high quality, smartly-designed products from many of these outfits. DKX Technologies, based in North Dakota, designs, manufactures, tests and sells NIJ-certified (National Institute of Justice) polymer fiber body armor plates. Pictured below is one of their foam-backed plates which provides both useful buoyancy and reduces the felt impact from bullet impact – broken bones can occur even if traditional body armor isn’t penetrated.
Most people think only of Dupont Kevlar, the aramid polymer fiber, for “bullet proof” garments but as expected in the world of free enterprise, there are not only competing brands of aramid but also several PolyEthylene polymer fiber body armor brands. One of these is Dyneema, a UHMwPE which is the “world’s strongest fiber.” Both types of fibers are also used in other high strength fabric, rope and fiber-reinforced composite applications.
So which is “better”? Sorry, but it “depends” – aramid is denser and has greater heat resistance but UHMwPE is lighter and stronger. “UHMw” stands for Ultrahigh Molecular weight and “PE for PolyEthylene.” Think of low molecular weight polymer as a bunch of short 1×2 LEGO bricks. Each molecule is represented by a single brick – kinda tough to make anything strong with that. Medium weight is like 1×4. Ultrahigh is like 1 x 100″bricks. Now polymer chemists would give me grief for implying that the molecules lock together and that it’s more like pellet pasta vs spaghetti strands.
Besides the aramid and UHMwPE, there are also metal and ceramic armor plates. Perhaps the main drawback of these materials is that there is significant deflection (ricochet) of the bullet, either whole or as fragments, which can continue to travel at high speed and hit the head, arms, other body parts, as well as other people or gear. Polymer fiber body armor usually encapsulates and stops the bullet. DKX had some test panels that absorbed 5.56 mm hits from just 7 meters!
DKX receives the Dyneema as rolls of fabric, waterjet cuts it to size and then forms, presses and coats the armor panels. They are available with or without the buoyancy foam and come in various geometries and NIJ ballistic ratings. Check out DKXarmor.com for more details and some interesting testing videos.