We are in the business of saving lives. Me and my partner, Rohit, recently started Akiro Protech to produce high performance technical textiles that go into life protection — body armor, vehicle armor and blast containment devices. Several customers asked me what prompted us to start this company, especially at a time nimble Asian upstarts were rapidly scaling and commoditising the portfolio.
I would like to give some background. Five decades ago, super strong para-aramid yarn and later, ultra high molecular weight polyethylene were invented as the world’s strongest manmade fibers. So strong, that it was touted that it could stop bullets midway in their path.
Researchers wove aramid yarn into popular styles in the 1970s and 1980s for specific use cases. In the late 1980s, polyethylene yarn was converted into unidirectional non-woven fabrics and harnessed to stop rifle gun fire that aramids could not.
More than three decades have passed. The same woven fabrics that were used in the 1980s continue to be used in body armor applications, albeit with yarn sourced from Asian manufacturers. Aramid yarn’s tensile properties have evolved marginally over this time. Woven fabrics using polyethylene yarn were miraculously replaced with non-wovens.
Polyethylene yarn however has evolved, and some of the top grades are almost 40% stronger (tenacity cN/dtex) compared to the yarn produced in the 1980s. The unidirectional non-wovens have incrementally innovated, only substituting newer, stronger yarn in place of the older ones. Similar resin systems, similar styles, but companies expanded their portfolio of intellectual property.
There is a place for new materials. PBO yarn rose like a phoenix but was condemned to ashes due to certain failures in the field. Liquid crystalline polymer yarn never found their mark. A multitude of Ceramic yarn were extruded and touted for high performance applications, but never found the light of the day.
On the Chemistry front, significant innovation has happened over the past fifty years. Polymers with precise parameters are being produced. If the resin in the UD fabrics is not just a glue but its elastomeric properties aid in spreading the ammunition’s energy on impact, maybe there is room for improvement. Several polymers are available in extruded film form.
With this background, Rohit and I set out to the drawing table with a clean slate. We did not want to be bogged down by the baggage of been there, tried that and does not work attitude. Then there is the industry baggage of we know what works and does not.
So, this in short, is the story of how Akiro Protech was founded. Our founding principles are based on innovation and we pride ourselves in offering unique designs to our customers. Our quality control is world class. We enforce traceability using world class ERP systems.