Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE) In Protective Armor

With the technology of protective armor continuously evolving, new and improved material, such as Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE), is being used to enhance the level of protection in protective armor.
GILBERT, Ariz. - Dec. 13, 2022 - PRLog -- At the end of World War I, the British Army Medical Services released a report toward the end of the war which stated that 75% of all battlefield injuries could have been prevented with effective armor. Since then, military and law enforcement agencies from around the world, have been keen on advancing the technology for protective armor. From manganese plates becoming popular in the early 1940's to aluminum or plastic plates by 1945, the emphasis on providing more protection, flexibility, and lightweight body armor has been an enormous military and law enforcement focus for decades.

Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene

In the early 2000's, rated as the most durable thermoplastic and proven to be 15 times more abrasion-resistant than carbon steel, Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE) has become a preferred technology for enhancing ballistic protection. Through a gel-spinning process, using high-density polyethylene (which is intended to pack in as many molecules as possible), the polymer goes under high heat and high pressure (which elongates and aligns each molecule to be in the same direction), creating a gel like fiber that can be spun into fabric or molded into hard plates creating increased strength and flexibility.

Primary Benefit to UHMWPE

The rifling in most firearms is designed to allow the bullet to spin as it's fired. This causes friction when hitting body armor and due to the polyethylene in UHMWPE, it actually causes the polyethylene to melt, grabbing the bullet, cooling it down, hardening it back up, and continuing to prevent further penetration.

The Future of UHMWPE

As military and law enforcement agencies continue to advance the protective armor technology, will the use of UHMWPE continue to be incorporated into their protective armor or will other technologies surpass the UHMWPE's excellent properties? According to a research study by Grand View Research, the global market for Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE) in 2021 was just shy of $1 billion dollars, but is projected to be around $5 billion by 2028. The protective armor application accounts for nearly 36% of the total global market size for UHMWPE. Based on this study, it appears that UHWMPE will continue to be a preferred material used in protective armor in the near future.

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