What is a Ballistic Plate?
Ballistic plates, otherwise known as armor plates, are not exactly the sort of thing that you’d choose to wear for a night out on the town. Sure, if you’re intent on mischief, you may consider popping a couple of ballistic plates underneath your dapper shirt and tie.
But then, that perhaps would be taking things just a little bitty too far. So, instead of packing your plates under a formal shirt, you’d be far better served by inserting them into a ballistic vest.
After all, the primary purpose of a ballistic plate is to disrupt and absorb the kinetic energy of some form of projectile such as a round from a firearm, and to reduce any blunt trauma that may be transferred.
Thus, they serve to further enhance a ballistic vest’s performance, otherwise named the ‘ballistic value’. Ballistic plates are generally located within a pocket situated to the front of a ballistic vest, towards the center of the chest area. Nevertheless, some vests also have plate pockets to the rear, whereas the more advanced demolition and tactical vests offer a plethora of pockets in every which way.
What Materials are Used?
Ballistic plates tend to use a combination of materials within their makeup. The following are the primary materials:
Ceramic is still the most common material to be used within ballistic plate production. It’s a bit like glass, but of course, it’s far stronger. Typically, they are composed of boron carbide and although they do provide a high ballistic value, they’re not the best at dispersing blunt trauma. And that’s why they are frequently backed by other materials such as Kevlar, high density plastic, metals, or aramid.
Polyethylene in an ultra-high molecular format can be as strong, if not stronger than steel, and yet, there is less weight involved. Nevertheless, they provide less trauma reduction than other ballistic plate materials.
Metal ballistic plates are more often than not made from titanium or steel, although other alloys such as Aluminum may also be used. Given that the materials offer a high level of conductivity, metal plates are very efficient at reducing blunt trauma.
Fabric plates, often referred to as soft trauma plates, don’t really do much to dampen trauma. Typically, they are composed of aramid fabrics and sometimes also include polyethylene or metal to offer a higher amount of trauma protection.
Although not commonly available in the form of a ballistic plate, at least as of now, nanomaterials such as nanocomposite and carbon nanotube surpass everything that is currently on the market. The advancement of nanomaterials in terms of ballistics has been a slow process and companies have been aiming to develop the technology since 2005 in order to implement the benefits.
Graphene is the latest material to interest researchers in terms of its ballistic properties. In late 2014, graphene, which is the strongest and thinnest material on mother Earth, became the center of much interest at universities and various research institutes around the globe.