Industrial safety • 6 min read

Why aramid fibres are an excellent choice in many protective fabric applications

Arno Lammers August 20, 2019

The first fully synthetic FR inherent fibres were first introduced in commercial applications more than 50 years ago, where they revolutionized protective clothing in the military and industrial sector. As a safety professional, you are probably familiar with Kevlar® , Nomex® , Twaron® and Kermel®. They are all heat-resistant and strong synthetic fibres that go by the name of ‘aramids’. Although today there are several alternatives available on the market, aramid fibers are still an excellent choice in many applications of protective clothing. Read this blog to determine if that is the case for your protective clothing.

THE CRADLE AND USAGE OF ARAMID FIBRES

Aramids, or fully written ‘aromatic polyamides’, were introduced in the early 1960s. Companies started to use them in commercial applications by synthesizing polyamides.

These aramids consist out of two types, para-aramids and meta-aramids. Para-aramids were initially designed for war purposes, as they can be used for high-tech applications in aerospace and military. Their tensile strength can go up to 7 times of that of steel at equal weight. A well-known variant of para-aramids is Kevlar® , which is commonly used for bullet-proof body armour.

The other type of aramids, called meta-aramids, are well-known for their excellent heat and flame-resistant properties. As a safety professional in the industrial sector, you probably have heard about meta-aramids at some point. Nomex®  is a well-known meta-aramid, which is used in firefighter clothing and protective clothing in the industrial sector.

Today, aramids are commonly used in the petrochemical industry because they offer good chemical resistance. However, in the metal and steel industry FR-treated solutions are more common than aramid fibres. That’s mainly because of the price difference and because FR-treated solutions provide good enough protection for this industry.

THE POWER OF ARAMID FIBRES

While there are new alternatives available, aramids are still being used in many applications. They offer many advantages, which we can summarize as follows:

Excellent heat and flame resistance: the flame-retardant and heat resistant properties are really good. Aramid fibres do not melt or  ignite in a normal level of oxygen, their melting point could go up to >500 °C.

High chemical resistance: aramid fibres offer better resistance against risks like flashover and chemical splash because the fibres are 100% synthetic.

Low molecular weight: the fibre is way stronger than, for example, a cotton blend. This means that fabrics consisting of aramid fibres can be very light and still offer a high level of protection.

As you can see, aramids offer a high level of protection in specific situations. It is key for you to understand if you need this level of protection or that it might be too excessive for your specific needs. If that is the case, there are alternatives to choose from.

ARE ARAMID FIBRES THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR YOUR PROTECTIVE CLOTHING?

By reading this blog, we hope you became aware of the benefits of aramids. In order to decide if they are a good fit for your protective clothing or not, you need to fully understand the specific needs of your work environment. For some applications, like firefighters, it is by far the best choice. For other applications, there are alternatives available and you have a choice depending on your own wishes concerning protection, weight and price.
Ask our protective clothing expert for advice and get the answers you need. Schedule here an appointment with one of our advisors to get objective and customized advice in order to optimize your protective clothing.

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Arno Lammers

End User Expert | TenCate Protective Fabrics