DuPont has established its $500 million Cooper River Kevlar facility near Charleston, S.C., to allow DuPont to meet increased customer demand for its advanced protective materials that are incorporated into police body armor and other applications.
Overall global production capacity for Kevlar will increase initially by 25 percent and is expected to grow by 40 percent, with planned productivity improvements and continued technology developments over the next two years. The new capacity will allow DuPont to provide customers with next-generation Kevlar products that improve their ability to innovate in many applications.
"As the global population grows, there will be even more critical need for protection materials to keep people safe and to protect the environment, structures, and critical processes," said Thomas G. Powell, president of DuPont Protection Technologies.
The Cooper River Kevlar plant will initially produce innovations that support three primary technology platforms: DuPont Kevlar AP, DuPont Kevlar KM2 Plus, and DuPont Kevlar XP for growing applications in ballistics, other personal protective equipment, aerospace, tires, fiber optic cables, oil and gas, and automotive.
New DuPont Kevlar products already are making an impact by providing added protection and performance in military and police helmets and tactical plates. The products allow for a reduction in the weight of helmets and tactical plate designs, adding higher ballistic performance and increased protection.
Also, new body armor can help stop bullets within the first three layers of a vest designed with a total of 11 layers, according to DuPont. The remaining layers absorb the energy of the bullet, resulting in 15 percent less bruising for the vest wearer. DuPont estimates that the ballistics demand is growing at more than 10 percent annually.
Along with a recent $50 million expansion at DuPont's Spruance plant in Richmond, Va., Cooper River represents the largest single investment in Kevlar and the largest capacity increase since the fiber was introduced in 1965. DuPont also manufactures Kevlar in Richmond, Va.; Maydown, Northern Ireland; and at a DuPont joint venture, DuPont-Toray Company in Tokai, Japan. The Cooper River Kevlar plant expansion has created 135 jobs and was built over three years using a construction workforce of up to 800.