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Breakthroughs don’t happen overnight

August 9th, 2021 / By: / My Take

by Janet Preus

I have often thought that I would have liked being a foreign correspondent for a news service. That would be in my younger days. In fact, I would have volunteered to cover stories in areas of conflict, which is the only scenario where I can see myself wearing body armor, but you can bet I would have been glad to don the extra weight for my protection. We can thank the advanced textiles industry that materials exist for protective clothing and gear. While it’s true that recent breakthrough technologies have yet to be commercialized, they’re coming. Don’t worry, they’re coming. 

The protective textiles market spans a variety of market segments, with many of them benefiting from materials developed for one of those segments: the military. The U.S. military continues to support research in advanced materials to improve the protective garments and gear for its warfighters. More effective, lighter weight, better comfort and fit – all of these functionalities matter, and when warfighters’ are better equipped, those improvements are often made available to other segments, such as law enforcement, first responders, private security and industrial settings. 

It may seem like we’ve been talking about this a lot over the past many weeks, but it’s important. In his feature, “The material difference,” Seshadri Ramkumar discusses emerging material technologies that have been long in coming, but there are improvements on the horizon, including engineered spider silk (See “Stronger engineered spider silk created”) and graphene-incorporated structures. 

Researchers have had success in other areas, as well. “Body-temp camouflage for soldiers shows promise” discusses another kind of protection for warfighters, and “Female soldiers to get new body armor” explains needed improvements in military armor that will be available soon. 

In our next feature this month, industrial specialist Bill Sismour explains the tools for navigating military markets, generally, offering a step-by-step process for government contracting. The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) website is the place to start, but then what? Sismour explains where to go at each new turn on the “yellow brick road” one must follow. You’ll find that story on this site August 24. Sismour is also scheduled to speak at IFAI Expo in Nashville in early November. 

There are many more stories published on this site that illustrate the range of materials, end products and innovations underway, and others that are needed, all fueling an ongoing trade in protective products. This market is not going away—and it will always be on the lookout for something better. 

Janet Preus is senior editor of Advanced Textiles Source. She can be reached at jlpreus@ifai.com.