Ballistic-grade armor used to be specified based primarily on material hardness, hence the pervasive use of steel plates in body armor and vehicular plating. When a projectile strikes a hard surface it can either ricochet, shatter, or penetrate the material. The ideal situation is that a bullet will impact the hard surface of the plate and fracture. The impacting force will disperse as the shrapnel from the shattered bullet spreads out, protecting the safe side of the plate. Yet there is no guarantee that bullets will strike armor panels with the ideal trajectory.
Ballistic-grade fiberglass composite panels operate on a radically different principle. Comprising a unique lamination of reinforced ballistic-grade textiles, fiberglass composite panels aim to capture and retain incoming projectiles by delaminating.
Outlining Delamination of Fiberglass Composite Panels
Delamination defines the process where textile layers and resins within a composite system separate in response to physical stress. When a bullet strikes a fiberglass composite panel, it will rupture the surface and cause controlled delamination. The energy of the bullet is dissipated across the length of the panel, and the bullet is retained within.
Fiberglass composite panels have been engineered to overcome many of the existing challenges associated with conventional hard-wearing armor plates.
Drawbacks of Conventional Armour Panels
The two most widely-consumed materials for armor plating are steel and hardwearing ceramics like silicon carbide (SiC). Steel has been used ubiquitously in military and security applications since World War II, but the heavy weight profiles of steel plates limited maneuverability. The weight of ballistic steel often exceeds the performance limits of airborne vehicles, significantly reducing range and performance.
Technical ceramics entered the security market during the Vietnam conflict when rotor and aircraft routinely came under fire from small arms weaponry during assaults. Despite the effectiveness of ceramic armor enameling for helicopters and attack planes, technical ceramics remain extremely expensive for practically any market outside of the military.
Benefits of Fiberglass Composite Panels
The first benefit of fiberglass composite panels is their mechanism of action. Rather than relying on material hardness to shatter projectiles, fiberglass allows bullets to penetrate the material before delaminating and retaining the projectile. This underlying benefit has myriad additional advantages.
As hardness is not a critical factor, fiberglass composite panels are sometimes lighter than structural steel. They are also more flexible and easily machinable than most metals, making the material infinitely more suited for architectural ballistic protection applications.
The second benefit is the cost-attractiveness of fiberglass for large area protection. Technical ceramics are so costly that protecting large areas is practically non-viable from a commercial point of view. The likes of silicon carbide are typically limited to proprietary armoring in aviation and aerospace engineering. Fiberglass composite panels can be easily manufactured by treating woven, ballistic-grade textiles in a thermoset resin and curing them in a hydraulic hot press. This enables the formation of large-area, flat and rigid sheets of ballistic grade materials at a fraction of the cost of both steel and ceramic.
Fiberglass Composite Panels from Armortex
Armortex specializes in the development of unique, cost-effective ballistic protection solutions for everyday applications from courtrooms to school buildings. If you would like to learn more about our fiberglass composite panels, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the team today.