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DKX Body Armor

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There are quite a few “Made in America” companies at the ShotShow and it’s nice to see some high quality, smartly-designed products from many of these outfits.  DKX Technologies, based in North Dakota, designs, manufactures, tests and sells NIJ-certified (National Institute of Justice) polymer fiber body armor plates.  Pictured below is one of their foam-backed plates which provides both useful buoyancy and reduces the felt impact from bullet impact – broken bones can occur even if traditional body armor isn’t penetrated.

Most people think only of Dupont Kevlar, the aramid polymer fiber, for “bullet proof” garments but as expected in the world of free enterprise, there are not only competing brands of aramid but also several PolyEthylene polymer fiber body armor brands.  One of these is Dyneema, a UHMwPE which is the “world’s strongest fiber.”  Both types of fibers are also used in other high strength fabric, rope and fiber-reinforced composite applications.

So which is “better”?  Sorry, but it “depends” –  aramid is denser and has greater heat resistance but UHMwPE is lighter and stronger.  “UHMw” stands for Ultrahigh Molecular weight and “PE for PolyEthylene.”  Think of  low molecular weight polymer as a bunch of short 1×2 LEGO bricks.  Each molecule is represented by a single brick – kinda tough to make anything strong with that.  Medium weight is like 1×4.  Ultrahigh is like 1 x 100″bricks.  Now polymer chemists would give me grief for implying  that the molecules lock together and that it’s more like pellet pasta vs spaghetti strands.

Besides the aramid and UHMwPE, there are also metal and ceramic armor plates.  Perhaps the main drawback of these materials is that there is significant deflection (ricochet) of the bullet, either whole or as fragments, which can continue to travel at high speed and hit the head, arms, other body parts, as well as other people or gear.  Polymer fiber body armor usually encapsulates and stops the bullet.  DKX had some test panels that absorbed 5.56 mm hits from just 7 meters!

DKX receives the Dyneema as rolls of fabric, waterjet cuts it to size and then forms, presses and coats the armor panels.  They are available with or without the  buoyancy foam and come in various geometries and NIJ ballistic ratings.  Check out for more details and some interesting testing videos.

RICOH had a nice elevated platform in their ShotShow booth to better try out their range of optical gear.  They had several sets of NV-10A digital color binoculars which have P.A.I.R. technology to help see through marginal atmospheric conditions such as fog, rain and snow.  P.A.I.R. stands for “PENTAX Atmospheric Interference Reduction” and seems to be a real-time image  enhancement/processing software filter.  The NV-10A also has near infra-red capability for low light conditions.

Here’s the specs: 6.6 to 13.2 magnification, 5 m minimal focus range, manual focus/zoom, ~80 min. battery life (uses RICOH BT-10 batteries), 800×600 pixel color organic EL display panel/viewing screen,  1 SD memory card slot to record 720 x480 30fps video or stills with GPS location tagging, electronic compass, image stabilization,  date/time logging, IP64 water/dust proofing, grippy rubber surfaces, weight ~3lb / 1.4 kg.   See for more details and extreme condition viewing examples.

It’s expected to have a ~$4k price tag when it becomes available late Winter in N. America.   The target market is more .gov, security agency, maritime vs the consumer Sony DEV-50.

First the disclaimer.  I’m a long time fan and follower of  FLIR.  When I was in elementary school, my father would bring me issues of Aviation Week magazine and that’s where I first saw the acronym FLIR which stands for Forward Looking Infra Red and was part of an airborne sensor suite for military aircraft.   Fast forward to this century and I started seeing the FLIR company booth at various trade shows and saw that they had some thermal imaging products that could be considered consumer level.  The prices were still fairly high  ~$1000 and up but hey, at least you wouldn’t get glow in the dark eyeball cancer like from the cheap Eastern Bloc gear.  And the FLIR analytic grade gear, costing significantly more, is so much fun to look at too.

Well, about a year ago FLIR acquired Lorex, a leading consumer grade security products company.  And not coincidentally, at CES 2014 the first wave of clearly consumer-priced products from FLIR was announced.   The FLIR FX is a modular family of cameras and accessories and the FLIR ONE brings thermal imaging capability to the iPhone 5 and 5s.  The FX received a 2014 CES Innovations Design & Engineering Award.

Boy, what a mob scene at the FLIR booth this year – sardine packed in the booth and overflowing into the aisles.  Obviously $350 to get thermal imaging and extra battery capacity on your iPhone 5/5s or $250 for a full-featured video security/action cam with both cloud or direct WiFi connectivity plus a bunch of  modular accessories has that effect on people. GoPro watch out!

I’m on the Android side of the fence so I am not allowed to say nice things about Apple or iPhonies.  But I can say the FLIR MSX feature is impressive – it is an overlay of visible light imagery on the thermal image.  The in-booth example was being able to see the outline of same temperature signage text (via MSX) along with a fresh, hot hand print next to the thermally neutral text.

Thermal imaging is not just about seeing in total darkness.  By dynamically displaying the temperature of parts and surfaces, perhaps the greatest utility comes from being able to see the relative change in temp. across a part or an assembly of parts – is there excess friction or inadequate cooling?  (How’s your BBQ doing!  Is shaken really better than stirred?) And you can store still images and video of these temperature deltas for future reference.

Both these products will be out in Spring 2014.  And hopefully at CES 2015 FLIR will be announcing the ~$300 FLIR FX thermal imaging camera.  FLIR will be making yet another product announcement at the ShotShow in a few days so I’ll be posting another entry soon about that plus a bunch of tech details for both the FLIR FX and FLIR ONE.