D30 Impact Protection: the future of armor?
D30 Impact Protection, which has been making protective gear for extreme sports applications for years, may be changing the way we do armor with a sci-fi like development.
I recently had the opportunity to meet Miss Melanie Baez of D30 Impact Protection while attending AUSA in Washington D.C. The Brighton, United Kingdom based company has been making unique personal protective equipment (PPE) products for some time. It was used in the 2006 winter Olympics and is still being utilized in industrial applications, motorcycle racing and several other sports. Not being particularly interested by any of those things, I almost dismissed D30 as another “eyes and ears” PPE provider. I was wrong, and found myself happily listening to Melanie’s explanation of what exactly D30 does that makes it special.
D30 makes Armor (or ‘Armour’ for you anglophiles out there). It’s armor that’s as unique as it is technologically advanced. More specifically, it is technology that protects against impact and provides shock absorption. This is something most modern ballistic armor is surprising lacking. So before we move on, let’s take a moment to consider the history of individual protection on the battlefield.
First off, I’m a history buff, but certainly not a historian. So with that disclaimer I’ll proceed with caution so not to anger our LARP and RenFair readers out there. Armor has been around for a really, really long time. Mankind has been working on it for pretty much as long as we have been working on different ways to kill each other, beginning with shields, heavy quilted fabric garments and thick leather vests. As metallurgy and craftsmanship improved, so did the quality of protection. This holds true for every culture that has the money, means and time to do so. From the Roman legion, to the medieval knights, to the Samurai of feudal Japan armor evolved uniquely in every successful military culture, but it always evolved. Weapons leading up to the invention of gunpowder primarily killed through penetration, slashing and crushing.
What we today commonly refer to as blunt force trauma was a day to day risk for ancient warriors, even if their steel plate and chain link mail succeeded at defeating the blade. For this reason, the majority of historic soldiers thru out the ages wore some sort of padding to protect against bone breaking impact-transferred energy. Two of the most common from middle ages Europe were the “Aketon” and “Gambeson”. These thick padded cloth garments were wore under and over steel armor, and provided “soft” protection. This soft layer has for long been over looked in modern design, which is apparent to anyone that as seen the effects of firearms on current armor. For LEOs wearing level 3 kevlar vests, or Soldiers wearing ceramic SAPI plates, getting hit hurts – though of course taking a round to the vest doesn’t equal dead. You stay in the fight and leave with the same number of holes you started with. Broken ribs and other injuries are better than the alternative. The same principles apply to armor worn by an armed citizen, of course.
This is where D30 comes in with their TRUST (Trauma Reduction Unrivaled Shock Technology) armor.
D30 has a patented technology that comes in both foam and non-foam forms. Their special polymer material contains molecules that are soft and flexible in an undisturbed state, but immediately lock at the moment of shock, distributing energy throughout the compound. The instant the force ceases, the material returns to its original flexible state. Think of a neoprene knee pad that turns into a hard plastic knee pad when hit with a rock, but then returns to a soft, flexible knee pad as soon as the rock bounces off. D30 armor provides this protection plus the very real benefits of lighter weight and increased comfort (which is significant to anyone who has ever had to spend much time in armor).
While I was at first skeptical at the technology, Miss Baez drove the point home by wrapping the almost fluid form of D30’s compound around her hand, and then immediately smashing it repeatedly on a table with a steel hammer. I almost gasped, and she had a bemused look on her face as she peeled the almost-liquid compound off of her hand – uninjured.
Currently the technology is being used in a range of applications by several military and law enforcement entities around the world. The company produces a full body riot suit you could hide under a business suit, with an impressively low and unaggressive signature. I handled D30 military knee and elbow pads designed for in-uniform wear and came away impressed with the diversity of their product line. I was then allowed to look at the helmet pads designed for use in the U.S. standard issue ACH/MICH – D30 boasts their pads exceed the required level of impact protection by 33%, which stands to help reduce traumatic brain injury. These helmet pads could be a really Big Deal; likewise this technology could be a significant evolution in individual protection, from executives to CCW holders and everyone in between.
To sum things up, it’s a rare thing for something that doesn’t go “BANG!” To excite me. But this crazy British polymer does. Hopefully their product line increases to include a specific, low profile vest to wear under a flak jacket, and help reduce blunt force trauma caused by projectiles. Until then, check them out and see what options they currently offer.