COMPOSITE TECHNOLOGIES – BATTLESPACE TALKS TO ARMOR HOLDINGS
By Scott R. Gourley
Dec 06. Armor Holdings, Inc. is a diversified manufacturer of branded products for the military, law enforcement and personnel safety markets. Starting in “the body armor arena,” the company has expanded its market scope through a series of acquisitions, with one of the most recent being the company’s 2006 acquisition of Stewart & Stevenson Services Inc.
Today the company’s Armor Holdings Aerospace & Defense Group is a top supplier of human safety and survival systems to all branches of the U.S. military and major aerospace and defense prime contractors. The Armor Holdings Products Group is a leading manufacturer of security products for law enforcement personnel around the world. And the Armor Holdings Mobile Security Division is the world’s largest and most experienced passenger vehicle armoring manufacturers.
BATTLESPACE recently discussed composite technologies with key representatives from the Armor Holdings Aerospace & Defense Group. Subordinate division responsibilities within that group cover a range of areas, including: Individual Equipment and Soldier; Tactical Vehicles; Ground Vehicle Survivability; Aerospace Systems; Pinzgauer; and other services activities for elements of the Department of Defense.
Scott Hartley, Director of Research and Development Programs, created a foundation for the discussion by providing an overview of the company’s experience with armor technologies and composites. Hartley’s responsibilities include the “external focus” to develop relationships with small business, government labs, and academia, to ensure that the company stays abreast of the latest technologies relating to their product lines.
“We possess a large variety of experience with composite materials,” Hartley explained. “As a company, the primary drivers for composites have historically been in our aerospace and individual equipment and soldier divisions. And the main drivers for those applications have been weight and performance since they are worn by an individual or carried in an aircraft. But, as a general observation, I would also note that the ‘vehicles piece’ is starting to catch up to those areas in terms of composite applications.”
He continued, “As a corporation, if you looked at all of our products, we really have experience with all of the available fiber technologies, including carbon fiber, different types of fiberglass, ballistic nylon, aramids (Kevlar and Twaron), and high molecular weight polyethylene fibers – better known as Spectra Shield®, Dyneema, or Tensylon. Our focus is on developing core material technology that offers distinct technical advantages. We depend on material suppliers and system suppliers as well as internal technology to make sure we present the best possible option to our customers.”
“Much of the time these are not stand alone items when they are used in a ‘composite’,” he added. “You define a composite as a combination of more than one material system used together. So you could apply the definition to two metals, a ceramic with a spall liner, a fiber combined with resin, etc.. But now when you say ‘composite’, it usually has one of these more ‘exotic’ textile fibers included in the mix; often combined with ceramics, metals, or resins to create a truly engineered system.”
As far as material processing, Hartley noted that the company then takes those materials and processes them into useable forms using standard available manufacturing processes, including autoclave, compression molding, resin transfer molding, bag molding, and thermoforming.
“So, I think, from a company perspective, we have a fairly broad expertise with composites in a wide variety of different application areas,” he said.
“The combination of composite technologies, used with ceramic, steel, and aluminum, are tailored for the specific application, added Regis Luther, Vice President of Engineering f