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The Mechanics Of Better Bullet Proofing

File photo: US Army soldier wearing lightweight body armour.
by Staff Writers
Manhattan KS (SPX) Nov 22, 2006
Body armor with greater ballistics resistance is the aim of the research being carried out by Youqi Wang, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Kansas State University, with support from two U.S. Department of Defense agencies.

The Army Research Lab and Army Research Office awarded Wang grants totaling $350,000 for her new approach to how next-generation ballistic-resistant fabrics/textiles/materials might be designed. The three-year projects are "High-speed penetration failure mechanisms of textile fabrics and armor-grade textile composites" and "High-performance cluster for the simulation of ballistic penetrations."

An earlier composites design project sponsored by the Air Force brought Wang's unique design approach to the attention of the Army agencies. She is developing a computational model for the ballistics simulation of a fabric given its basic physical and mechanical properties.

"The important question for us is how can we determine the relationship between a material's properties and the ballistic resistance of any final product made of such material," she said.

"We're going to attack the basic mechanics of the problem," Wang said. "Thread is constructed of yarn; yarn has thousands of fibers; fibers have strands; and in between you have fiber-to-fiber interactions. Once we identify the mechanical properties, we'd like to analyze the fabric's behavior. Ours is the first computer model to attack this problem."

In October, Wang installed the cluster of computational computers for the project.

"We purchased a small cluster in order to demonstrate that our design approach is feasible," she said. "If we show that our design approach is a sound one using only a few computers, we think our design tool has a better chance of being adopted."

Now in year two of the three-year projects, Wang has already designed sample materials that were tested for ballistics-resistance at the Army research facilities at Aberdeen, Md.

According to Wang, because there's a need for better body armor for the military, it's become extremely important to ask how protective materials will be designed in the future. The Army wants to reduce the weight, improve mobility and protect soldiers in combat or police officers and others, she said.

Wang's analysis begins with the properties of a single fiber and gains complexity: How much force can a thread withstand? If it is woven this way or that, what changes?

Next, she analyzes fabric properties: What should be the proper size of the yarn? What should be the structure of the yarn? Should it be twisted, plain or braided? What will be better? Then comes the textile-making process, weaving, braiding, yarn orientation. What orientation or interlock structure will be better for a ballistic-resistant fabric?

"How we answer the questions is going to be quite important in coming years," Wang said.

Since a single layer of a material will not stop a bullet, Wang said, the goal is to design thick layers of fabric, perhaps as many as five to 10 layers of fabric, or a 3-dimensional, woven fabric, in such a way that a bullet's energy dissipates along the fibers and the layers absorb the most possible energy.

"We don't want the impact energy to stay in one direction. We want it to go 3-dimensional," she said. "Our goal is to protect lives and defeat the bullet."

Wang joined K-State in 1994 and was promoted to associate professor in 2000. An Alexander von Humboldt Fellow, she earned both a master's and doctorate in structural engineering from China's Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

earlier related report
Maintenance Marines 'up' armor defenses
By Lance Cpl. Ryan L. Tomlinson, 1st Marine Logistics Group
Al Asad, Iraq (SPX) Nov 22, 2006
A Marine dons his body armor and straps a Kevlar helmet over his head. He's ready to go on the road, armed with the knowledge that he and his Marines are protected with newly installed vehicle armor.

Motor vehicle mechanics with Maintenance Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 1, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), engage in a humvee armor modification project in support of Regimental Combat Team 7 and CLB-1.

The Marine Corps has increased the strength of the protective plating on vehicles since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The upgraded doors help protect servicemembers against fragmentation from the blast of an improvised explosive device.

The some of the newly added armor also maximizes the possibility for vehicles to continue down the road after an IED strike, said Sgt. Christopher C. Herslip, 24, maintenance chief of the Frag-5 project and native of Deering, N.D.

"It helps sustain more of an impact from an IED to protect Marines," said Gunnery Sgt. Jesse Leal, 37, company gunnery sergeant of Maintenance Company and a Los Banos, Calif., native. "It helps the four Marines and the gunner come back (to base) safe."

The armor modification team says they work diligently to provide the Marines on the front lines with the protection they deserve.

Some humvees are arriving in Iraq with the armor kits already installed; the Marines at CLB-1 ensure the rest are upgraded to the same level of protection. The team is also making modifications to the vehicles already on hand, some of which have been damaged already.

"When we receive damaged humvees, the door has to be fitted precisely on the frame even when it's bent," said Lance Cpl. Eric R. Sparkman, 21, a motor vehicle mechanic with Maintenance Company and a Lawrenceburg, Ky. native. "Sometimes it could take hours to do just one humvee, but one way or another that armor is going on."

After reaching a daily goal modifying five or six humvees, the Marines come back the next morning to pick up from where they left off. According to them, the large work load makes it a tough job, but their hard work has its rewards.

"It's a tough job, but I know we're here to do a job to help protect the Marines in that humvee," said Lance Cpl. Dylan B. Hiller, 24, a motor vehicle mechanic with Maintenance Company and a native of Corfu, N.Y. "That's the most rewarding factor about being out here."

Related Links
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Jerusalem (AFP) Nov 17, 2006
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