Innovation in the field of ballistic resistance has historically followed breakthroughs in the field of firearms. Italian engineers first experimented with the idea of the bulletproof vest in the 1500s, following the invention of the wheel lock rifle. The design was a composite of layered metal plates designed to absorb impacts and shatter incoming projectiles, but the results were largely ineffective. Ballistic fiberglass panels have arisen as a direct result of centuries of research into protective apparel and architectural solutions.
In this blog post, Armortex explores the history and performance of ballistic fiberglass panels in greater detail.
Bullet-Proofing through the Ages
Despite offering inferior protection against firearms, metal remained the material standard for bulletproofing due to its good availability and generally low cost. This began to change in the 1800s with the onset of so-called soft body armor that exploited the unusual ballistic resistant qualities of silk. Composite body armor was sewn using layers of silk and canvas which proved suitably resistant to shots from a contemporary revolver at close range. Archduke Franz Ferdinand owned a bulletproof vest of this design yet he was not wearing it on the day of his assassination, which subsequently sparked the First World War. Owing to the high cost of silk, this solution was not adopted at scale for some time.
Soft body armor based on this early design began to find use during World War II, which coincided with a great increase of interest in the world of composite materials. Fiberglass panels were suddenly consumed in significant volumes for use in military aircraft. Today, many military and civic helicopters are comprised of over 50% composite materials including fiberglass panel fuselages and carbon-reinforced polymer rotors.
Performance of Ballistic Fiberglass Panels
The ballistic performance of fiberglass panels is determined by their unique laminate structure. This is engineered by weaving ballistic-grade fiberglass roving and treating it with a thermoset resin via mechanical injection. Hot-pressing cures the fiberglass panels into rigid sheets which can weigh much less than steel, with superior impact-resistant properties.
Fiberglass panels disperse the force of incoming projectiles and delaminate to capture and retain projectiles as opposed to shattering them. This tried-and-tested technique can be customized to meet Underwriters Laboratories (UL) standards 1—8.
To put that in context; fiberglass panels certified for UL level 1 protection can withstand three shots from a 9mm handgun at velocities of up to 1295 feet per second (ft/sec). Fiberglass panels certified for UL level 8 protection can withstand five shots from a 7.62mm assault rifle at velocities of up to 3025 ft/sec.
Fiberglass Panels from Armortex
Armortex® fiberglass panels are fully UL-compliant and are engineering with the approval of the U.S. Marshal Service. We can provide ballistic resistant solutions for a broad range of application areas, including banks, courtrooms, government facilities, and schools.
If you would like to learn more about our fiberglass panels, please do not hesitate to contact us directly.