DSM is the inventor and manufacturer of Dyneema; an extremely light, strong and durable polyethylene material which can be used to manufacture body armor. The company manufactures both the fiber and the ballistic materials made by it on two sites: North Carolina (USA) and the Netherlands.
In response to climate change and global warming concerns, DSM is one of the companies who are setting sustainability goals to reduce their carbon footprint. At Milipol Paris 2021, BodyArmorNews.com had the opportunity to speak with Dirk Louwers, DSM’s Global Marketing Manager for Personal Protection to learn more about this initiative.
Reaching sustainability goals
Mr. Louwers stated that DSM has the goal of being the leading manufacturers of ballistic materials while being responsible to the environment.
“We want to make sure that we have the lowest feasible carbon footprint,” Mr. Louwers said, “We are already running our factories on solar energy. We try to reduce packaging as well. Being headquartered in the Netherlands, we have strict environmental regulations. We’ve said let’s focus on contributing to CO2 reduction as much as possible.
“If you really look at what is impacting the environment, it’s the CO2,” Mr. Louwers continued. “It is a result of how you manufacture your fiber. Dyneema has always had low CO2 emissions. We have introduced a bio-based fiber, where we work with a bio-based raw material. When using this fiber in our armor products, we’re able to further reduce the CO2 emissions. We find that very important as a responsible manufacturing company.
“We are the only company that is doing this. As a result, we have been able to lower CO2 emissions by 35-40% compared to the already low emissions. We’ve used a very specific assessment for this: the life cycle assessment. We measure the emissions in manufacturing the fiber, the sheets and the ballistic articles.”
In a recent article, the company has also spoken of their plans involving bio-based Dyneema: “By implementing bio-based Dyneema fiber into all new unidirectional (UD) product offerings and program solicitations, we are able to provide our body armor manufacturing partners with material innovations that don’t sacrifice performance for sustainability.”
DSM CirculariTeam is a coalition that strives towards achieving a circular economy in the body armor industry. This coalition consists of their company, as well as other well-known names such as Point Blank Enterprises, MKU, NFM Group, etc, who all aim to reach their own sustainability goals.
Mr. Louwers explained the aims of this coalition further during our talk. “What we’ve done is, we have split the company into two specific segments. One is the protective division and the other is marine/industrial fiber division. What we’ve done as DSM is, we’ve taken the lead and set up a circularity team.
“So, for each segment, we’ve gathered a couple of leading customers around the world, who we have frequent meetings with. We engage with them to see how we, as an industry, can contribute to reduction of waste, the longer use of material, and decreasing packaging.
“At the end of the lifetime of an article, we see what we can do with it. Can we recycle it? What’s the best way? Can we use the article in a different value chain? So, we feel the need to lead that initiative in this industry, and that’s what we’ve started to do by setting up the CirculariTeam.”
Mr. Louwers also commented upon the prospective sale of DSM’s protective materials division. “DSM has decided to focus more on nutrition. As a result, the performance materials division is not considered a business that DSM will focus on further. They will be managed as a separate entity. It isn’t too different from how we currently manage it. The businesses are run on their own profit and loss responsibility. We look forward to having a new owner with new interests.”
“What we have done, and what we continue to do, as a company, over the last decades, is to drive innovation,” Mr. Louwers added, as a final note, “Dyneema is the most innovated, proven to be reliable, and lightweight. So, with that said, we continue to invest in the manufacture of new materials.
“Post-COVID, we have seen that having multiple manufacturing locations in multiple geographical areas, is very important. We are close to our customer. We have multiple technical centers. And with that, we are innovating and manufacturing materials for those who protect us. We aim to keep doing that, moving forward.”