NTU Faisalabad, industrial partner make low-cost bulletproof vests

The News, June 5, 2020

The industry-academia linkage is crucial for getting the best out of the education imparted and research carried out at universities and translating it into something beneficial. Quite often there is a concern among industry representatives that there is some mismatch between the workforce produced at the universities and the demand that exists in the market. It is also alleged that the curriculum is not fully updated.

In this context, it is highly encouraging that some Pakistani universities are also into product development of great value. One such development is the production of light weight bulletproof vests made from 3D comingled woven thermoplastic composite and novel auxetic woven fabrics at the National Textile University Faisalabad.

To commingle means to put things together into one mass so that the constituent parts are more or less homogeneous, blended, intermingled and therefore enforced. Auxetics are structures or materials that have a negative Poisson’s ratio. This means when stretched, they become thicker perpendicular to the applied force and not thinner as normally happens.

This one is light weight bulletproof vest and more feasible than the existing imported products and lower in price. Commercialisation of this prototype is in progress.

Principal investigator, Prof Dr Yasir Nawab of NTU, oversaw the whole process and the development of the bulletproof vest. The project started on 07-11-2017 and its end date was 6-11-2019. The budget allocated for the project was Rs11.807 million and the industrial partner was National Engineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM) Pakistan.

As the project document states: Depending upon the level of protection, a bulletproof vest generally consists of a thick front ceramic plate, a textile composite backing plate (Both jointly called hard armour plate ‘HAP’) and number of layers of textile fabric (Soft armour panel SAP). Commercially available solutions (being imported) provide necessary protection level with disadvantage of higher weight and higher costs.

The project grant for such projects is awarded by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) under its Technology Development Fund, says Tariq Aziz Chaudhry, match making manager, the Establishment of Technology Development Fund, R&D, HEC, Islamabad.

In first stage, one PhD doctor from a public/private university submits a proposal in collaboration with an industrial partner to the Higher Education Department. The objective of developing this academia and industry partnership is to run the business idea for longer period as the HEC only awards one or two year seed money for new projects or ideas, says Chaudhry.

In the present work about the bulletproof vest, novel auxetic woven fabrics and 3D woven fabric based composite structures developed at the NTU are being used in combination with ceramic plate for the development of light weight, more energy absorbent prototype bulletproof vest with improved comfort level for Pakistani climate. The weight has been reduced by 10-15 percent and price by 15-20 percent. In addition to this, Pakistan can save foreign exchanged used to import bulletproof vests.

Auxetic fabrics show negative Poisson’s ratio when subjected to load. It means the yarns come closer at the point of impact making structures of such fabric 15-20 percent more resistant to impact. Use of these innovative fabrics can help to further reduce the weight with improved protection level.

Selected samples were tested with live bullet firing at Police range Faisalabad. The samples successfully achieved protection level 3 and 4 which is as per requirement of military and police in Pakistan and across the globe.

We have already filed a local patent on the developed fabrics, says Prof Dr Yasir Nawab. Keeping in view the novelty, low weight, high performance and reasonable cost i-Textiles (Karachi) joined hands with NTU for commercialisation of the developed products. The prototypes were displayed at International Defense Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS) as well in collaboration with our commercial partner i-Textiles Karachi, he says, adding efforts are in progress for commercialisation at mass scale.