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Meeting unique challenges in the safety and protective fabrics market

Advanced Textiles, Markets, Projects | February 1, 2012 | By:

IAA projects show the range of applications in the safety and protective fabrics market.

Applications with demanding safety and protection requirements represent a highly specialized niche in the industrial fabrics world. IFAI’s annual International Achievement Awards recognized two companies in the 2011 competition for unique projects completed for NASA programs

Rocket engine ventilation

A&R Tarpaulins Inc., Fontana, Calif., received the Award of Excellence for fabric engine ventilation covers used to help protect critical components of a rocket during lift off. The fabric engine cover assemblies allow air flow to escape through a ventilation system while preventing foreign objects from entering and damaging the rocket, its avionics, engine, the payload (satellite) and payload fairing area.

The fabric vents were manufactured using specialized silicone tubing strands, stretched to a certain length before installation on the part. These critical strands control the massive inflow and outflow of air through the fabric vents.

Each lot of fabric vents takes three to six months to manufacture. Each part is sent to a lab for stringent air flow testing to ensure that it can maintain specific required air flow pressure. A failure to maintain and control the proper air flow during launch would allow foreign objects to enter the engine of the rocket, which could endanger the flight, so the parts are considered extremely flight critical. A one-time use product, they have a shelf life of six months from the date of manufacture.

The vents were made in-house by NASA for many years. The A&R Tarpaulins project represents the first time that NASA has outsourced this requirement to a supplier. The parts passed all inflow and outflow air pressure requirements and have been used for flight; in both testing and actual use, the success of the design has been proven.

AR Tech, a division of A&R Tarpaulins, is a manufacturer of engineered fabric products, collaboratively designed, engineered, and manufactured for technical and aerospace applications, including electro-magnetic interference (EMI) covers, acoustic blankets, multi-layer insulation (MLI) blankets, static-dissipative, anti-static and conductive space flight hardware assemblies. In addition, AR Tech supplies ground control and logistic products and services, such as space vehicle and equipment protective covers, security enclosures and other products for technical, industrial and commercial applications.

Negative-pressure containment

Shelter Structures Inc. , Philadelphia, Pa., specializes in custom, tensioned-fabric buildings, but a fabric structure manufactured for NASA’s MAF Machining Center in New Orleans, La., required that the company meet unusually strict standards. NASA had installed a large, muliti-axis welding machine and needed an environmental containment solution using negative pressure to control the contaminants generated by the equipment.

The machine extends 25 feet above grade while the height to the bottom of the building trusses is 40 feet and the bottom of the bridge crane serving this area of the building is 33 feet above grade. The challenge was to design, manufacture and install a structure that provided the interior and exterior clearances required, while meeting rigid NASA requirements for structural integrity in the form of roof live loads, roof collateral loads, external wind pressure and internal negative pressure. The installation schedule required coordination with other companies involved in the project, and installation on a tight schedule after the gantry crane was installed.

The flat-roofed, negative-pressure shelter—delivered to the customer’s satisfaction and on time—allows the MAF Machining Center to be operated without the risk of contamination to the rest of the facility. Shelter Systems received a 2011 IAA Outstanding Achievement Award for the project.

Shelter Structures designs and manufactures semi-permanent fabric-covered buildings that are constructed with galvanized steel frames and coated, polyester-reinforced PVC membrane covers, offering portability, cost-effectiveness, an expedited construction schedule and long life. The company has installed shelters worldwide.

Mitt protects against toxins

First responders may face a range of chemical threats, including chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial chemicals. To deal with what could be an unknown threat, responders require a flexible, inexpensive, and broad-spectrum protective fabric system. The Technical Support Working Group, a U.S. government agency, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), facilitated the development and testing of Fibertect®, a fabric encapsulated, activated-carbon, dry decontaminant product, commercially available from First Line Technology LLC, Chantilly, Va.

The Fibertect® Dry Decon Mitt was an adaptation of this technology, requested by the Army National Guard. The Mitt has a three-layer, inert, flexible, drapable, nonwoven composite substrate for absorbing toxic materials. The layers consist of a top and bottom fabric with a center layer of fibrous, activated carbon that is needle punched into a composite fabric. The top and bottom layers provide structural coherence, mechanical strength and abrasion resistance. Its design allows for easy clean-up of bulk chemicals on people, weapons and sensitive equipment, and it can be worn over gloves.

First Line Technology LLC is a small business supplier of out-of-the-box solutions for first responders and the military, focusing on emergency response missions.

Safer weld screens

Canfab Products Ltd., Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, installed thirteen cubicle curtains in the welding department at Red Deer College, Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. The college had previously been using cumbersome portable weld screens. The new curtains offer increased safety for students and staff in the department.

An IFAI resource

The Safety and Technical Products division of IFAI is a resource for the safety, medical and interactive textile product marketplace, concentrating its efforts in interactive, medical, and protective textiles in these areas: thermal, conductive/antistatic/EMI, chemical/biological/radiation/nuclear, mechanical/physical, visibility, particulate and pressure.

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