TNO is an independent, not-for-profit Dutch research organization who work in ballistic research involving the testing of body armor. The Dutch Ministry of Defense is one of their largest clients, along with foreign defense ministries, the international defense industry and suppliers.
We at BodyArmorNews.com had the opportunity to interview Mr. Bastiaan Geluk of TNO. Mr. Geluk works as a business developer at the ballistic laboratory of TNO which is responsible for body armor testing.
The TNO Laboratory
TNO’s ballistic laboratory was founded in the 30s and was funded by law as a research facility for the government and the ballistic industry. TNO is divided into nine units, one of which is ‘Defense, Safety and Security’. It is under this category that body armor testing falls.
“Our mission is to protect those who protect us,” Mr. Geluk said, “One of the things that we work on is ballistic research. We help companies and the Ministry of Defense to improve the solutions that are in place to protect people.
“This ranges from body armor for personal protection, equipment, vehicles, infrastructure and everything in between. We have a very high-end state-of-the-art laboratory where we focus on ballistic research. We have diagnostic equipment to see how the products work and what changes to make, if needed.”
Body armor testing methods
When asked about the methods TNO uses to test body armor, Mr. Geluk replied with the following. “We help the Ministry of Defense and our customers to evaluate their ballistic solutions just by shooting at them.”
The lab contains a target bunker for testing all kinds of firearms, munitions and explosives. In addition, it houses three indoor shooting ranges for testing a variety of small-calibre projectiles and weapons systems.
“We do this using international ballistic standards,” Mr. Geluk said, “There are certain standards that stipulate that if you can fire a certain type of bullet at the vest and it is blocked, you get a certain level of certification.”
Testing complies with international standards such as STANAG (NAVO), MIL, VPAM, CEN and NIJ. The lab has the ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation and also has the NEN-EN-ISO 9001:2008 management certificate.
“We go another step further,” Mr. Geluk continued, “We can also help the customers improve their product using our advanced diagnostics. We have developed our own diagnostic equipment.
“The lab has a high-speed x-ray, which is unique and unlike any others in the world. We have other x-ray equipment, high-speed video cameras and various other testing equipment. We try our best to capture all the aspects of the product where we can make further improvements.”
Instead of a using time-consuming tests to find the impact of a projectile using X-rays, with the high-speed x-ray, a single experiment suffices. It filters out light flashes, smoke and flying particles from the combined images so that you can see very precisely what happens, when a bullet penetrates protective clothing, a helmet or vehicle armour.
That information is extremely valuable for the development of materials, or new combinations of materials, for better protection. For companies the ability to “see through materials” provides precise diagnostic information that can help optimise their products. That is especially important for testing body armor.