Certified | USA Small Business
How It Is Made: Making Ballistic Helmets
What we will cover:
- 10 Facts about making and manufacturing ballistic helmets.
- How to make a bulletproof helmet?
- What are bulletproof helmets made of?
- Kevlar helmets compared to UHMWPE helmets.
- Measuring ballistic helmet performance.
- How Atomic Defense can help.
From hammering bronze and iron helmets to pressing Kevlar (Aka Aramid) and UHMWPE helmets, manufacturing ballistic helmets has come a long way! Nowadays, manufacturing bulletproof helmets is a complex process involving layers of Kevlar or UHMWPE fibers and pressure molding.
Ballistic Helmets Made in the USA?
With the help of advanced technology, companies like Ops-Core, Atomic Defense, 3M, Galvion, and Team Wendy are able to make lightweight yet highly protective ballistic helmets that can save lives in dangerous situations. But what exactly goes into making these life-saving pieces of equipment? Read on to find out more about the manufacturing process behind modern bulletproof helmets!
Ballistic helmets are necessary for providing protection to individuals against the impact of projectiles and shrapnel. When manufacturing ballistic helmets, there are two primary manufacturing methods employed— compression/stamping molding and hydroforming.
How to Make a Bulletproof Helmet?
Compression/stamping molding is the manufacturing process typically used to make aramid fiber helmets. This involves taking a stack of aramid sheets or fabric layers and setting them into a male-female-matched metal die set.
The hydraulic pressure applied in this manufacturing process can range from 300 psi upwards to 500 psi, with temperatures around 340 degrees F usually required for 12-15 minutes for one phenolic PASGT helmet.
This type of manufacturing process requires precision and accuracy in order to ensure that no wrinkles, cuts, or seams appear on the final product. After being taken out from the press, additional trimming may be needed in order to complete downstream production processes such as painting, quality control checks, drilling, and attachment of accessories.
What are Bulletproof Helmets Made of?
Hydroforming is the manufacturing method employed when creating Ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) based ballistic helmets. This involves first heating up a stack of UHMWPE fabric layers in an oven for a certain period of time before placing it inside a flexible rubber diaphragm which contains pressurized hydraulic oil within a hydroforming press.
As opposed to compression/stamping molding where only high pressures are applied, using hydroforming also requires precise temperatures due to the fact that UHMWPE fibers shrink when heated and expands when cooled; this manufacturing method ensures that no wrinkles or seams form on the final product once it has been taken out from the press.
As with compression/stamping molding, some trimming may be required for downstream production processes such as painting, quality control checks, drilling, and accessory attachment.
The major advantage of UHMWPE over aramid is its weight savings — up to 20-30% lighter than traditional aramid fiber ballistic helmets yet still providing comparable levels of protection — as well as its ability to be molded into complex shapes which provide better protection against blunt trauma injuries compared to traditional bulletproof helmets made with Kevlar fiber alone.
Kevlar VS UHMWPE Helmets:
UHMWPE is a great material when it comes to manufacturing ballistic helmets, and while it has many advantages over Kevlar, there are some drawbacks which need to be taken into account. For example, UHMWPE based helmets may not perform as well as Kevlar helmets in terms of protecting from fragmentation due to their lower V50.
The V50 is a measure of the amount of energy that a material can absorb before being penetrated by a projectile and is determined by firing projectiles at the material at different velocities and calculating which velocity causes more than 50% of the shots to pass through the material.
Kevlar helmets typically have higher V50 ratings than UHMWPE helmets because Kevlar fibers are designed specifically to deform upon impact, absorbing the energy from projectiles rather than letting them penetrate.
Measuring Ballistic Helmet Performance:
Another measure of performance for ballistic materials used in helmet manufacturing is BFD (Backface Deformation) or BFS (Backface Signature). This measures how much deformation occurs on the inside surface of the helmet back when a projectile strikes it. Generally, materials with high strength such as Kevlar tend to have low BFD/BFS values while those with low strength such as UHMWPE will generally have higher values – meaning they may be more likely to cause blunt trauma injuries due to high backface deformation.
Overall, UHMWPE has many benefits when manufacturing ballistic helmets, including its light weight and ability to be molded into complex shapes; however, there are some drawbacks that need to be considered when deciding which material is best for manufacturing ballistic helmets – one being its lower performance compared to Kevlar in terms of fragmentation protection and BFD/BFS metrics.
It is therefore important for manufacturers and end users alike to understand both the advantages and disadvantages associated with using UHMWPE-based materials when manufacturing ballistic helmets in order to make an informed decision about which type of helmet best meets their individual needs.
Although these two manufacturing processes have been around since 1963 (when UHMWPE was first invented by Albert Pennings), many believe that further advances can still be made in helmet manufacturing technology both in terms of protective materials (such as recently developed genetically engineered spider silk fibers) as well as new “next generation metals” which can perform better ballistically while being ultra lightweight at the same time.
Quick and Easy - Facts of Ballistic Helmet Manufacturing:
1. Ballistic helmets are typically made from layers of Kevlar or Ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE, UHMW) fibers that have been pressed at a constant temperature and pressure for a set amount of time in a male and female-matched metal die set.
2. The mold or press itself is most commonly a male and female-matched metal die set using hydraulics to achieve the desired pressures necessary for manufacturing the helmets.
3. UHMWPE provides weight savings over aramid for the same protection levels, but manufacturing a helmet with this type of fiber is much more intensive.
4. Following US patent US13844109, manufacturing a ballistic helmet with UHMWPE involves heating fabric layers in an oven for a set period of time before placing them in a hydroforming press using pressurized hydraulic oil in a flexible rubber diaphragm to shape the fabrics around a punch.
5. After manufacturing, additional processes such as trimming, painting, quality control checks, drilling, and accessory attachment may be required before the helmet is ready for use.
6. Improvements to helmet manufacturing may come from new fibers being spun together to create unique blends - such as the U.S Army investing close to one million dollars into genetically engineered spider silk believing it has better energy absorption than kevlar - or "next generation metals" that perform better ballistically and are lightweight.
8. Protecting our troops is paramount and manufacturing ballistic helmets that offer superior protection while remaining lightweight is key - so these advancements are crucial and will help ensure those wearing them are safe from harm on the battlefields of today’s war zones around the world
9. Companies such as OPS-CORE, Atomic Defense, 3M, Team Wendy, and Galvion use Kevlar/PVB-phenolic
10. Helmets require constant temperatures around 340 degrees F and pressures over 500 psi for 12-15 minutes during manufacturing
11. Helmets are constructed through complex processes involving numerous nuances; however this overview should serve to give readers an idea of how they're actually made
Discrete Manufacturing and Know-how from Atomic Defense:
Need a ballistic helmet or help with the manufacturing of ballistic helmets? Atomic Defense can help! Contact us today.