A Union County textile manufacturing company creates a high performance tape that’s tough enough to protect soldiers in the battlefield and placid enough to be used as surgical sutures and dental floss.
How Tensylon Began
Integrated Textile Systems started the manufacturing of Japanese-based technology Tensylon from its Monroe plant in 1999. In the last two years, there have been two key acquisitions that have generated worldwide attention for this highly valuable and useful product.
In 2006, Armor Holdings attained Integrated Textile Systems, which was attained by BAE Systems one year later. BAE Systems, which is a well-known company in the global defense and aerospace industry, delivers an array of services and products for naval, land and air forces. The company also works with state-of-the-art electronics, customer support services and information technology solutions.
BAE Systems was renamed to Tensylon High Performance Materials… it’s a secondary of the Land and Armaments operating group.
The Monroe facility was impacted heavily by the acquisitions, which had just added 18,000 square feet to its original manufacturing space of 30,000 square feet. It cost the plant $7.9 million and added more than 40 new jobs. By years’ end, the company is looking to add more production lines and have 60 employees total. It also includes the research and development operation.
The reason so much attention is placed on the Monroe site is that it’s the one place where Tensylon materials are developed and manufactured. These materials come from an ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene polymer and are used in a number of ways – advanced fiber compounds in ballistic products, for example.
The Tensylon high-performance tape or fiber can be made into various other specially-designed composites, all dependent on the unique application. It’s also one material that’s used for ballistic protection in the cabin where crew are situated in the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicles that are presently being used in Iraq. It’s also seen in the M1114 Up-Armored HMMWV.
According to Owen, when BAE Systems took over Armor Holdings/Integrated Textile Systems, they attained all assets, technology and information regarding Tensylon. Plus, the machines that make the Tensylon can only be found in Monroe.
Who Is Owen?
South Carolina native Owen earned her chemical engineering bachelor degree from the University of South Carolina in 1986. Upon graduation and the last 10 years, she worked with Allied Signal (currently known as Honeywell International), working with the high-performance fibers. Upon going to the University of Richmond in Virginia, she attained his M.B.A from Richard S. Reynolds Graduate School of Business. Upon completion, Owen became a part of the NatureWorks LLC, which is an international biopolymer manufacturer. This role ensured that Owen would be responsible for the global implementation and commercialization of renewable thermoplastic polymers for stiff packaging.
Owen said for the last 20 years, she’s been known as the “Material Girl” because she worked with armor, fibers and plastic materials. She said she loves her job, knows the end results and loves coming up with commercialization techniques.
Since she became a team player for Armor Holdings, Owen has had to overcome several challenges, seen the assimilation of two acquisitions, managed the site’s growth and dealt with vendors within the technology and equipment industry. Her biggest challenge to date was the staffing of the plant.
Why Is Tensylon Such A Hot Topic
There’s a lot of interest in Tensylon because of its similarities to other high-performance materials including but not limited t:
What makes Tensylon so worthwhile is its exclusive combination of structural and ballstic performance. When you look at the cost and weight savings, there are not like the others.
The polyethylene that Tensylon uses is a powder, which is often subjected to high amounts of pressure and controlled temperatures as it goes through the rollers and is made into a thin sheet that’s slit into form fibers. These fibers are either laid or interlaced parallel in the same plane and cross-plied at angles to each other to generate a specially-designed composite, all based upon the application requirements.
Owen said it’s got the ability and strength to absorb energy. It can float in water, and is both abrasion and chemically-resistant. It’s extremely strong and resilient.
Unlike nylon, Tensylon won’t stretch and it has no creep properties. For that reason, it can be used to tie down offshore oil platforms sitting on the ocean floor. It can also be used for:
• Sporting goods
• High performance sails
Johnson & Johnson uses one kind of it to make it “Reach” dental floss.
Still, the material’s more immediate uses have been to protect troops, used in helmets, body armor and wheeled-vehicle systems.
Owen said the technology is young but the team is proud to be the leader in Tensylon’s development, production and marketing to protect troops in combat.
The plant in Monroe currently makes 100,000 pound of polyethylene fiber every month. Additional growth will ensure that number doubles.
How BAE Systems Has Been Helping The Military
The tradition for BAE Systems is to support the military, which is done by using current technology and innovation. In fact, this system goes back all the way to 1560 when the Royal Powder Factory began in Essex, England. Today, the Land and Armaments operating ground includes a number of operations across the United Kingdom, United States, Sweden and South Africa.
BAE Systems has an ever-increasing key role to protect troops on the front-line of both Afghanistan and Iraq – protecting them from ambushes and roadside bombs with the manufacturing and production of three kinds of vehicle for the MRAP armored-vehicle program for the U.S. Department of Defense. This program is currently being headed by the U.S. Marine Corps.
The Pentagon’s top priority is to get MRAPs so that today’s threats are handled. BAE Systems-designed and created vehicles account for over 4,300 of nearly more than 6,000 that have been ordered to date. The possible defense requirements could exceed 20,000 vehicles.
Tensylon can be used by troops for personal protection as well – helmets and armor.
The panels of Tensylon keep its stiffness and won’t fail near as easily as other polyethylene composites after it’s been hit. Therefore, this material is considered better in performance and ideal for protecting troops in their armored vehicles.
Owen compared the material to a catcher’s mitt. Both the aluminum shell and outer steel will become deformed and slow down the projectile, but the Tensylon panels inside will absorb the spall that comes from the impact the projectile making, stopping the secondary projectiles.
Owen said although Tensylon has distinctive characteristics for non-armor and armor use, most of the property concentration has been for the military. Therefore, she said, it could be beneficial for the commercial side of life but that has yet to be looked into. Owe said the immediate need is to deal with the needs of the military – both domestically and overseas.
She said in the long range scheme of things Tensylon manufacturing is expecting to continue its growth. Owen said the growth could cause other plants to generate more of the unique fiber.
DuPont Markets Tensylon-Designed Products
DuPont markets the Tensylon product, and began doing so in 2013. During IDEX 2013, it was launched as the largest international defense exhibition. DuPont’s Tensylon ballistic products ensures the company produces additional ballistic answers for hard ballistic segments such as vehicle panels, helmets, shields and insert plates.