In the manufacture of body armor, waterproofing vests is a primary concern. Since water acts as a lubricant, it can leave bulletproof vests susceptible to bullet penetration. Recognizing this issue, many companies have come up with suitable ways for testing body armor for integrity.
ASC Instrument is one such company specialized in leak detection for ballistic packaging and other products. Based in Paris, the company has developed a new machine, ASC BAIT, to test the integrity of each vest in a quick and efficient manner. At Milipol Paris 2021, BodyArmorNews.com met with Mr. Hans Lepelaars, International Sales Manager for ASC Instrument, who spoke of the test and demonstrated how the machine works.
Developing the ASC BAIT
In order to explain this method of testing body armor, Mr. Lepelaars explained it in terms of their previous experience in the food packaging industry. “This is an application of a technology we already used in the past in the food industry because we also test sachets and packs, such as a bag of crisps.
“The products are made in huge quantities, and they need to be tested. Most people, to test them, would put a needle in it and inflate them. And then, they place the product underwater and look for bubbles which indicate holes. This creates a lot of waste since all the tested packs need to go to the bin. We at ASC Instrument felt that there was a better way of doing it without creating any waste.
Nondestructive Integrity Testing
“So now, we’ve developed this method that is nondestructive,” Mr. Lepelaars continued, “Any product that is tested doesn’t need to be thrown away, the manufacturer can do as many tests as they want. The package is always without damage afterwards. For this particular application, the French army came to us because they had a problem with the typical way of testing body armor.
“The army would typically put out an order for 1000 bulletproof vests, for instance. Out of a thousand vests, they need to test the waterproofness of the ballistic panels inside the vest. They usually do it with a small sample where they take around ten vests, weigh them, put them in a tank of water and take them out again after 24 hours. Then, they’d clean them, weigh them again and if there was any weight increase, they would know that there has been a leak and water has come into the pack.
“When one sample test turned out badly, they had to block all the products. However, they needed them urgently and they needed a way to test them quickly without water. Each pack needed to be tested individually without harming the package. They knew about our technology and so, we then fine-tuned to suit this application.”
Today, the French army own several of these machines. They also have a larger one which can test the longer bomb-disposal suits. Moreover, other manufacturers of soft body armor are starting to implement this as an end-of-line quality control strategy.
Innovations for the future
As the test is already very quick (about 20-30 seconds) there is not much room for improvement on that end. ASC Instrument are mainly working on the reporting method, so that the test produces reports to go with every batch that is tested and includes each result specified (per size, per customer, etc.).
“We also develop different formats of machines,” Mr. Lepelaars added. “We already have the smaller ones for smaller products, so we can test them easier than on the large machines. We need this size to accommodate the front and back panels but, for the smaller sizes, we have a smaller machine as well.”
The growing need for security
“We feel there is a growing need to make sure that each part is checked,” Mr. Lepelaars explained, “For a sample size of ten out of a thousand, even if the tests are negative, testing ten is not as accurate as testing all thousand vests. So, we feel there is a growing need for maximum security so that the suppliers can be confident in telling the users that there is not a single pack with a leak in it.”