By Sigrid Tornquist
Q: What is involved in working with
suppliers to source materials that meet the demanding needs of
A: The threads of fibers that go into making, weaving or knitting some of the textiles we use undergo a lot of engineering. Med-Eng does not make the fabrics, so we need to source them. We focus on understanding the fundamental engineering and physics behind what we’re trying to accomplish and then engage with the suppliers of the materials. We let them know the types of properties we need in tensile strength, elastic modulus and tear resistance, for instance. They supply certain materials for us to engage in interactive trials and we test them and share the results. We have to cater the choice of materials to the body region we’re protecting, its mobility constraints and what level of protection we’re providing.
Q: What needs to be considered when importing materials and/or
A: There may be some fabrics, especially in the defense industry, which could be restricted from export or which may prevent certain government procurement organizations from adopting them. We’ve run into a few situations where there may be materials from third-world countries that are desirable for our products. They may offer very good performance but the DoD or our other clients will hesitate to use them because they don’t want to be subject to certain nations’ supply chains. Dependence on unreliable or unproven supply chains can introduce unpleasant shocks to releasing, selling or maintaining a product to key clients.
There’s also the Berry Amendment, which requires the DoD to procure certain items, including textiles and clothing, made with 100 percent U.S. content and labor. Often that may restrict the ultimate performance of what you can deliver.