Aramid fibers are referred to as high-performance fibers, and for a good reason. These synthetic fibers are inherently flame- and heat-resistant, with a high melting point of >500°C. Aramid fibers also have exceptional mechanical properties, better than steel and glass fibers on an equal weight basis. Because of their excellent performance, these fibers are used in aerospace, automotive, industrial settings, buildings, and the military.
Similar to other industries, personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturers have taken advantage of aramid fibers to improve the safety and comfort of workers in a variety of environments. Aramids protect a wide range of professionals and are used in military ballistic-rated body armor, bulletproof police vests, and MCR Safety’s cut-resistant gloves made of DuPont™ Kevlar® and FR Clothing made of Nomex.
Aramids are the fibers that make bulletproof vests possible.
In this article, we will dive into what makes this fiber so unique.
What Is an Aramid?
Scientifically speaking, aramids (or aromatic polyamides) are durable, heat-resistant molecules containing large phenyl rings of carbon and hydrogen atoms linked together by amide groups that are resistant to solvents and heat. In other words, aramids consist of rigid polymer chains with linked benzene rings and amide bonds.
The US Federal Trade Commission classifies a fiber as an “aramid” when at least 85% of the amide bonds, -CO-NH-, are connected directly to two aromatic rings.
What is aramid fiber or aramid yarn? Rigid, straight, and insoluble, aramid molecules are ideal for spinning into high-performance synthetic fibers. They obtain their strength from strong bonding between relatively short molecules, transferring mechanical stress rather efficiently. And, when it comes to protecting the human body, these durable, high-performance fibers are excellent for use in FR clothing, cut-resistant gloves, and aprons. The bright yellow color shown above has become a trademark of this iconic fiber!
Here are some of the characteristics of aramid fibers that make them ideal for PPE:
- Excellent heat and flame resistance – Aramid fibers are flame retardant, heat-resistant, and do not melt or ignite under extreme conditions up to >500°C. These features ensure good fabric integrity at increased temperatures.
- Outstanding strength – Aramid fibers outperform steel and glass fibers of equal weight in terms of mechanical properties. They offer exceptional resistance to abrasion and cutting. High chemical resistance – Aramid fibers provide better resistance against flashover and chemical splash because they are 100% synthetic. Their chemical resistance is excellent around organic solvents.
- Nonconductive – Aramid fibers are an excellent overall insulator, as they don’t conduct electricity.
Keep in mind, as with all things, there are not only strengths to aramid fibers, there are weaknesses, too. Here are some to consider:
- Aramids are sensitive to acids, bases, and chlorine. You have to launder products made from aramids differently than other textiles.
- Aramids are sensitive to ultraviolet radiation. This is why our aramid products come in a black bag to protect them from ultraviolet light.
Although they are serious weaknesses to consider, the benefits of using aramids outweigh the negatives. All you have to do is ask a utility lineman or an oil and gas worker how thankful they are to wear FR clothing. Anyone working around electrical-arc hazards or potential flash fires can attest to benefits found in aramid fibers.
Meta-Aramid vs. Para-Aramid
Aramids were first developed in the 1960s by the DuPont chemical company and were initially called HT-1.The name was later changed to the trade name Nomex®. Because of its flame-resistant properties, this meta-aramid was used as a fabric to protect race-car drivers. Para-aramid fibers came only a few years later, under the name Kevlar®. Here is a quick snapshot of each:
- Meta-aramids – manufactured differently from para-aramids, meta-aramids are developed in a chemical solution, often referred to as wet spinning. These fibers are highly resistant to temperature, chemical degradation, and abrasion. They have a tenacity of about 5.6g/den and can withstand stress during fire exposure and high temperatures.
- Para-aramids – these fibers are manufactured with a much higher tenacity of 23g/den. Para-aramids are more durable than meta-aramids, which means they are utilized in products that require greater tensile strength, such as cut-resistant gloves. They can take on more stress than most other materials, like a simple cotton textile. For example, DuPont™ Kevlar® is 5X more durable than steel, making it the ideal match for cut-resistant gloves, where protection from sharp metal is a must.
MCR Safety’s cut-resistant gloves being made at our factory.
Aramid vs. Kevlar
Some people ask about the difference between aramid and Kevlar. The answer is, no difference exists. Kevlar® is the trademarked brand name for the aramid fiber made by DuPont™. However, due to it being the first para-aramid developed, its name is synonymous with the term aramid. It pays dividends to be the market innovator!
Clothing and Gloves made with Nomex®
Because of their flame resistance, meta-aramids are most commonly used as textiles for FR clothing to protect against arc flash or flash fire. MCR Safety's DCNRR is an example of FR Clothing made from red DuPont™ Nomex® material. We have also recently begun incorporating Nomex® into gloves, as shown in the image below. For anyone working on a hot summer day, Nomex® serves as a comfortable alternative to a full leather-back glove and provides increased dexterity.
MCR Safety’s Gloves and Sleeves made with DuPont™ Kevlar®
MCR Safety proudly manufactures gloves and sleeves using Kevlar® fiber. In fact, we are the only licensed manufacturer that spins our Kevlar® yarn, as shown in the image above.
MCR Safety’s knitting line is making gloves with DuPont™ Kevlar®.
Kevlar® has a 50-plus-year history of outstanding strength and protection. Gloves and sleeves made with DuPont™ Kevlar® deliver the most durable cut- and heat-protection of any aramid fiber found in the market place. Inherently flame-resistant, Kevlar® withstands temperatures up to 900°F, higher than nylon, leather, and high-performance polyethylene, and it will not burn or melt. PPE products that incorporate Kevlar® include gloves, sleeves, heavyweight terrycloth gloves, and high-performance string knit gloves.
MCR Safety PPE made with DuPont™ Kevlar® being tested at DuPont’s testing facility.
For the ultimate protection, you can trust PPE made with DuPont™ Kevlar® to perform in some of the most extreme conditions workers face.
MCR Safety’s ARX Aramid Lineup
In recent years, para-aramid fiber production has become more industrialized. Increased production capacity due to additional para-aramid sources has ultimately caused pricing to soften. In response to increased market pressure, MCR Safety has developed an additional lineup of aramid fibers branded under the name ARX.
Below are a few of our ARX products that have seen tremendous success because of their exceptional performance. Click the images to learn more about each product.
How is aramid used for armor?
- Personal ballistic protective gear, such as body armor, uses a combination of flexible laminates, composite and ceramic hard plates, and aramid fibers because the material is thinner, lighter, more effective, and less restrictive for the wearer.
What is Nomex® aramid felt?
- Nomex®, the flame- and high temperature-resistant fiber that won’t melt, drip, or support combustion in air, is made in paper, fabric, thread, and felt forms. Felt is used mostly as insulation.
How are aramid fibers made?
- Aramid fibers are an organic polymer that is man-made and produced by spinning a solid fiber from a liquid chemical blend.
Can you use an aramid jacket for riding a motorcycle?
- Motorcycle jackets made with aramid fibers can be truly protective garments, although they likely will never be quite as abrasion-protective as leather. The aramid fibers can improve comfort, but they are not wind- or waterproof, so they don’t help with weather protection.
MCR Safety High-Performance Protection
When it comes to PPE that’s flame- and cut-resistant, offering unbeatable protection and high levels of comfort, MCR Safety’s aramid clothing and aramid fiber gloves can’t be beaten. You can count on MCR Safety to deliver the lightest weight, highest dexterity, and strongest cut- and heat-protective clothing and gloves.
We welcome any comments,feedback or suggestions for how we can best protect people at work.
For over 45 years, MCR Safety has proven to be a world leader in gloves, glasses, and garments. Whether it's on the shop floor, an oil rig, or a construction site, we are there providing solutions to workplace hazards. It's all part of our commitment to protect people.
No matter your industry, we have the personal protective equipment you need.
Learn more about MCR Safety by checking out our most recent video. For more information, browse our website, request a catalog, find a distributor, or give us a call at 800-955-6887.