DSM Dyneema: A vested interest in saving lives
By Michael Abramowitz
The Daily Reflector
April 17, 2014 - More than 100 Greenville-based DSM Dyneema employees got off buses at the Pitt County law enforcement firing range on Wednesday to watch an array of guns try to shoot their latest product — Alpha Elite — to pieces.
The guns were unsuccessful, and the employees were happy about that.
The event was hosted by Dyneema and its newest customer, Point Blank Enterprises, a worldwide leader in the production of soft body armor. Point Blank recently launched a new Alpha Elite ballistic package using material made from Dyneema’s “force multiplier” polymer technology. The demonstration showed first-hand how the material performs under multiple threat levels to protect law enforcement officers, federal officers, military and special operations personnel.
The weapons — using high-powered small-arms ammunition commonly aimed at first responders and military personnel — were fired into an ultra-light vest manufactured with Dyneema’s next-generation fiber technology and “uni-directional” engineering. The vest withstood bullets of varying calibers and speeds, including steel jacket encasements, hollow points and sharp-pointed high-velocity bullets fired by Darrell Peetz, Point Blank’s technical support director.
All of the 100 or more rounds of assorted caliber bullets entered the unprotected cover of the vest, but none exited its back because of the thin layer of polymer created by Dyneema’s technicians.
“The anti-ballistic performance we’ve been able to achieve with this product is unbelievable,” Peetz said.
Point Blank is one of Dyneema’s largest customers, senior account manager Dave Vanek said.
“This is the next generation of Dyneema products manufactured right here in Greenville and the first major application of our force multiplier product that our customers have taken to market,” Vanek said.
Dyneema chemists and technicians, using new technology, developed their polymer, already the world’s strongest fiber used in many markets, and placed it into a new uni-directional material, marketing director Sophie Wray said.
“Our technology enabled Point Blank to develop a new ballistic solution within their vest that now is beyond any product out there for lightweight performance,” Wray said.
Sheriff’s deputy and Pitt County Commissioner Glen Webb said he was impressed by the vest’s performance and excited by what it means for his fellow officers and for the county he helps lead.
“This is something I might want wrapped around me and our deputies at some point,” Webb said. “Any time we can get state-of-the-art technology like this, we should do it.
“We’re constantly looking at things like this, from the sheriff’s perspective and from the county commissioners, because we want our people to have the best,” he said.
Webb has several connections to the product. His father works at Dyneema, he said.
“We don’t discuss his work much, but it makes this even nicer,” he said.
Paul Harrison, a fiber technician who was among the workforce that developed Dyneema’s chemical technology into a life-saving product, said he was pleased by its performance.
“It looks like this will help our end-users in law enforcement a lot,” Harrison said. “It feels good to know that the job we do at Dyneema will have that kind of impact. We set high standards so we can have faith that the product will do the job when it’s needed. ”
Another Dyneema employee, Mike Johnson, listed a number of people in various stages extending from design and development to production to marketing and supply who all played a role in bringing the vest to the officers whose lives it will protect.
“Knowing that people like them will go home safe at the end of the day is the best product we could hope to offer,” Johnson said. “I’m very proud to be a part of this.”
Pitt County Development Commission executive director Wanda Yuhas said the demonstration and the product that Dyneema manufactured are evidence of the kind of life-changing technology being developed by county-based industries.
“We have companies here that are leaders in their fields and always looking for the next amazing thing,” Yuhas said. “We also have a workforce in this county that adapts to do what needs to be done, shifting from things like textile manufacturing to chemistry-based manufacturing.”
Yuhas listed Dyneema’s product among several ways that county-based industries and institutions are focusing on law enforcement as a target for economic development.
“This is becoming a strong business sector for our community,” she said.
Contact Michael Abramowitz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-329-9571.