Protection On Demand


hen it comes to collisions, the words “soft” and “ protective” used together would seem
to present an oxymoron. Traditional motorcycle apparel, for example, contains impact-resistant
hard-shell or semi-flexible components to protect such sensitive body parts as the back, knees,
elbows and shoulders. However, new technology developed by Dow Corning Corp. overturns conventional
perceptions about such protective gear. The Midland, Mich.-based silicone product developer’s
Active Protection System (APS) offers several advantages with regard to comfort, stability and
garment design over traditional hard-armor systems designed for blunt high-impact situations.

APS comprises a breathable, monofilament polyester, 4.8-millimeter-thick 3-D spacer textile
impregnated with a soft, flexible and moldable dilatant silicone. Normally, the silicone polymers
are lightly cross-linked in a soft, flexible solid state. When a sudden force is applied, the
material instantly becomes rigid as the energy absorbed spreads from the point of impact to
adjacent spacer yarns. The fabric returns to its original state when the force dissipates. Graham
Budden, a senior technical service chemist at Dow Corning Ltd., Wales, said the impact force thus
is reduced substantially, and the protection provided is more immediate and longer-lasting than
that afforded by rigid systems. According to Dow Corning, APS used in two and three layers exceeds
European impact protection standards for motorcycle apparel by approximately 40 percent.


The Dow Corning® Active Protection System (APS) comprises a flexible, breathable,
impact-resistant fabric that can be sewn into a garment and allows greater freedom of movement than
hard-armor systems.

Dow Corning notes that APS, which is
available on rolls with a release liner, can be sewn directly into a garment, whereas rigid systems
often include removable components and therefore may be less stable. APS can be layered to provide
different levels of protection as needed and offers many possibilities for garment design. Its
breathability, flexibility and light weight make it more comfortable to wear than rigid systems. It
also has been shown to be more breathable and washable than most foam- or gel-based soft-armor

Hannu Malinen, brand manager of Rukka, a Finland-based manufacturer of motorcycle,
snowmobile and active sports apparel, said APS embodies a vision the company has long held for a
protective system in a motorcycle suit that also offers maximum flexibility, comfort and
washability. For about 15 years, the company has been offering a suit with its rigid but breathable
RVP Air protection system whose protective components must be removed prior to laundering the


Rukka’s new SRO Anatomic motorcycle suit incorporates Dow Corning APS in its Rukka APS Air
system to protect all sensitive body parts.

When Rukka’s product developers
learned that Dow Corning was developing the APS system, Malinen said, “We couldn’t believe it was
true because it was really like our vision, and it really helped [move the development forward] to
say, ‘Yes, we are interested. We don’t care what it costs if it works like you say it does.’”

After two years of development, Rukka is set to offer the SRO (Smart Rider’s Outfit)
Anatomic suit, which will appear in stores early next year and is the first commercial product to
incorporate APS. The suit will include Rukka APS Air protection for all sensitive body parts. A
separate back protector containing APS also will be available. The suit will be available at a
premium price, but Malinen noted there currently is no other comparable suit on the market. He
expects the price will come down as other manufacturers begin to offer products using the
technology. He also anticipates incorporating APS into Rukka’s snowmobile apparel line in the


The APS dilatant silicone-impregnated 3-D spacer fabric becomes rigid upon impact,
distributing the energy absorbed at the point of impact to the adjacent spacer yarns, and returns
to its flexible state upon dissipation of the impact.

Other potential applications include
protective apparel and gear for contact sports, construction, and civil and military defense; and
industrial and geo fabrics. Budden said APS also might be combined with other systems to provide
further protection where needed.

“In very specialized areas, there is potential for a combined approach,” Budden said. “Our
technology would be useful as part of a whole package of protection techniques.”

Dow Corning is supporting end-product manufacturers with its Powered by Dow Corning®
ingredient branding strategy, by which the company expects to leverage its reputation with those of
its respective customers to expand opportunities for all concerned. The brand debuted earlier this
year on product packaging and in advertising for silicone textile finishes formulated by
India-based Resil Chemicals Pvt. Ltd. for textile processing applications. Rukka’s SRO Anatomic
suit, the first commercial end-product to take advantage of the strategy, will have a special hang
tag explaining the APS technology to consumers.

July/August 2006