Composite armour provides added protection

20th February 2015 By: Jonathan Rodin

Composite armour provides added protection

PROVIDING PROTECTION MOH-9 Armour Ceramics’ 99% alumina oxide ceramic is harder than steel and can provide superior protection compared with armour steels of comparable thickness

MOH-9 Armour Ceramics, a division of Multotec Wear Linings, part of the Multotec Group, launched its 99% alumina oxide ceramic (Al2O3) in December, available as both monolithic body armour and vehicle armour tiles. Owing to its improved hardness, lighter- weight composite armour solutions can be achieved, says MOH-9 Armour Ceramics business development manager Stephen Jackson.

He explains that, owing to its extreme hardness, alumina oxide is used to micronise impacting projectiles. The formation of a fracture cone within the ceramic dissipates the energy conveyed by the projectile.

MOH-9 Armour Ceramics’ 99% alumina oxide ceramic is harder than steel and can, therefore, provide superior protection, compared with armour steels of comparable thickness when used in conjunction with complementary composite materials. On average, alumina oxide ceramic is less than half the weight of a similar thickness of steel, says Jackson.

He notes that MOH-9 Armour Ceramics supplies the components in the bulletproof vests of both civil and military defence forces worldwide.

Jackson further highlights that the company is well known and respected in the Middle East, Europe and North America.

He adds that MOH-9 Armour Ceramic’s Pretoria-based factory employs stringent quality-control practices, owing to the sensitive nature of the company’s products, and that these practices are extremely thorough, as the product is used in situations where “people’s lives are at stake”.

MOH-9 Armour Ceramics produces, manufactures and designs its components locally, enabling the company to maintain competitive prices and compete on a global scale.

“The entire process takes place locally, except for the raw material supply, which comes from Europe, where the highest- quality raw materials are produced,” adds Jackson.

The mineral used in the manufacture of alumina oxide is bauxite, which is processed into calcined alumina, then an alumina powder and, finally, body armour and armour tiles.

Jackson points out that, as MOH-9 Armour Ceramics is a components manufacturer, it is essential to market its products to end-users in close collaboration with the composite manufacturers.

“The alumina oxide forms part of a system, using a combination of ceramic and various other ballistic-grade materials such as glass fibre, high-density polyethylene or Aramid to form the final product. It is not a standalone product. Relationships and partnerships with the leading manufacturers of composite armour solutions are, therefore, the cornerstone of the company’s success internationally,” says Jackson.

An additional factor in terms of route to market is the distance between South Africa and the traditional markets of Europe and North America.

However, based on the quality and strong relationships built by MOH-9 Armour Ceramics over the years, the company has managed to compete directly with European and North American manufacturers in what is traditionally their home territory.

“This is a considerable achievement, as well as being a sterling testament to both the quality of our products and the level of South African know-how,” comments Jackson.

Looking Forward
Owing to the increased strength and lighter weight of the 99% alumina oxide ceramic, Jackson says MOH-9 Armour Ceramics can target markets with weight restrictions and specific protection levels previously out of reach of alternative materials.

Jackson further points out that, as weapons technology is always improving, protection systems need to keep abreast of new developments.

“It is always a balancing act,” he adds, concluding that 99% alumina oxide ceramic is the logical next step in creating added protection.