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DuPont Ballistic Lab

DuPont has state-of-the-art ballistic testing facilities in Richmond, Virginia and Geneva, Switzerland, which are used to support personal body armor, helmet and vehicle armor developments worldwide. We maintain an extensive testing database that goes back many years and builds on a 40 year history in ballistic protection. Long before we determine that a new fiber or ballistic protection material is ready for use in armor applications, we conduct extensive ballistic testing and check our findings against our knowledge base to confirm it meets the demanding industry standards of this critical application.

While DuPont does not certify body, helmets or vehicle armor, the ballistic labs are used to help end users, customers and other value chain members to develop their new armor products designed to counter specific threats. Our strong science foundation combined with a wealth of experience and data gained from the DuPont Ballistics Labs have established DuPont as a valued resource in ballistic protection technology for the armor industry. 

Extensive experience, exhaustive methodology

Our DuPont state-of-the-art ballistic testing laboratories are designed to give our research scientists, engineers, customers and end-users a valuable tool for assessing the reliability of body armor, helmets or vehicle armor. One tool at our exclusive disposal is our extensive experience testing Kevlar® and armor systems—over 30 years of it.   We also have sophisticated data analysis tools to help ensure results are interpreted correctly, taking into account the many factors that create uncertainty in determining ballistic protection performance and safety margins.

DuPont’s Ballistic Labs can perform many of the tests that are done at other ballistic labs.  These labs are equipped to shoot ammunition from .22 caliber up to .50 caliber.  The most common test performed is a V50 evaluation.  V50 is the velocity at which there is a 50% probability the target will be penetrated by the projectile.  To supplement the standard testing, our high-speed video provides a vivid, immediately comprehensible depiction of how a given Kevlar® design will behave when hit by varying types of rounds fired at varying velocities  In the high stakes world of protecting people from ballistic threats, reducing uncertainty with sound science is critical to ensure adequate designs that eliminate the potential for failure.

Military testing

In the ongoing drive for lighter body armor that can defend against threats in combat, DuPont engineers subject new fibers, materials and armor structures to a number of tests to determine how they perform against the specified threats.

  • Fragment simulating projectiles and/or metal jacketed bullets of various calibers are commonly specified by end users for soft body armor testing.
  • Two fragment simulators, right circular cylinders (RCC) and fragment simulating projectiles (FSP) are used.  RCCs and FSPs are non-deformable (hard steel) projectiles normally ranging in weight from 2 grains to 64 grains.  They simulate fragment impacts from hand grenades and land mines.
  • Bullets specified for testing are typically 9mm metal jacketed rounds.
  • Typically, V50 testing is completed with the various fragment simulators and/or bullets to determine the protection provided by specific armor designs.  This testing can be done either with a clay body simulant behind the target or with no backing material, depending on the test protocol defined by the end user.  Various other tests can also be completed to allow better estimates of the safety margins provided by specific armor designs.

Law enforcement testing

As the weapons used on the street have become more powerful, testing conducted at the DuPont Ballistic Labs have helped manufacturers develop ballistic vests that are tough enough to withstand rounds fired from a .44 magnum, and light enough for law enforcement personnel to wear throughout a full shift.

  • The NIJ, HOSDB, SK, ISO and other testing standards from around the world involve firing different types of bullets ranging from 9 mm to .44 Magnums and up to caliber 12/70 shotgun slugs, at body armor placed in front of a tray of ballistic clay, a material that emulates the human body.
  • Typically these standard tests require vest designs to stop multiple shots at a certain velocity, and the clay must have less than a specified residual cavity depth commonly referred to as “back face signature deformation”.  For example, the NIJ specification requires six shots with less than 44 millimeters of "back face signature deformation".
  • Some test standards also specify V50 performance normally using the clay body simulant behind the target.
  • In addition to these standard tests, DuPont Ballistic Labs have the capability to do contact shots per the German SK standard and as required by other end users.

DuPont Technology -- it’s more than just a
ballistics lab

DuPont is a global science and technology company with a rich history of innovations in chemistry and material science.  We have over 4400 scientists and engineers globally with a broad array of expertise and the advanced laboratory facilities and staff to support them.

With the help of DuPont Engineering and Research Technologies (DuET) and the Corporate Center for Analytical Science (CCAS), DuPont conducts research to elucidate mechanisms that control penetration and back face deflection in a ballistic event.  A wide range of experiments are done utilizing sophisticated testing and analytical capabilities to better characterize materials and the material systems used in the development of soft body armor.  Examples of the special capabilities we have include:

  • High resolution electron microscopy
  • Chemical characterizations (elemental, structural, molecular weight, etc.)
  • Surface analysis (ESCA, SEM-EDX)
  • Dynamic mechanical testing (stress-strain, shear, bending response, coefficients of friction, specialty biaxial measurements, etc.)
  • Color and black & white high speed video.
  • State of the art ballistic modeling.

It is all about using the power of DuPont to understand and apply the science of energy dissipation to help body armor manufacturers develop new products and system concepts that can be used to improve protective gear for those who protect us all.