Being unemployed is an interesting place. Since grad school, many moons ago, I have been continuously employed at my craft of Textile Engineering. A strange profession to be sure. I like the study of textile structures and how they can react to outside stimuli. This passion has taken me from the world of composite materials (in graduate school) to the medical use of textiles (trying to make an artificial ACL for the knee) to industrial textiles and finally into the world of apparel. I will have to say, without any doubts, that the industrial textiles were by far the most rewarding. I spent over 22 years working in the that field. I have 7 patents from that time period, and developed countless new fabrics that did every thing from the mundane slitter board covers to life protection fabrics.
The life protection fabrics were my favorite. Fire blocking fabrics for aircraft seating, composite fabrics that are used in industrial braking applications and my baby – anti-ballisitcs. The science behind ballistics and ballistic events have always fascinated me. I have hand load rifle and pistol ammunition for 10 years before this opportunity to develop a new material to protect airline cockpit doors came to me. Since my lead technician was on vacation, I asked my lead engineer to help me with the sample production, but he was a big anti-firearm, anti-hunting guy and said he would only show me how to use the prototyping machine, but would not help with anything having to do with firearms. So I learned how to make samples that day.
A quick trip to the range with a borrowed .44 mag handgun and I was stopping bullets with a nothing more than loads of felt and six layers of heavy woven Kevlar belting substrate. (knowing what I know now about proper testing, I was really crazy to fire six rounds into that fabric and lucky I didn’t have any bounce back!) Soon this piece of fabric was heading to a real testing lab. Somewhere where the testing could be conducted safely and at much higher velocities (as the standards call for higher velocities than a normal handgun could safely fire; to make sure designs for vests have some margin of safety built in).
The range personnel were sure they would be punching holes in this fabric, after all they never saw anything like it before. Sorry guys, but we stopped every round! Now the fun started as we worked with real, honest ballistic type fabrics and worked out as much felt as possible. This allowed us to get the weight down, increase flexibility and still make a robust fabric.
Eventually, ten years later I had helped build that business into a brand new $12 million segment, had my own state of the art testing facility at my manufacturing site, had materials in domestic LE vest and military vest. I was really proud of the work and what I had accomplished. Even when others started including their names on my work, adding them to the patents and such. In the end it didn’t matter to me, because I could see, and still do, how many lives I have touched with my creation. I am sad when I hear that a vest with a piece of my fabric in it saved another officer, not because he or she was saved, but because they had to be. But I know that I have touched more than that officer’s life, I have touched his whole families life. And that is the best part of that idea I had so long ago.
Oh, and we never did make it not he cockpit doors.