About a dozen South Sound business folks drove up near Boeing Field this morning. It was a big day for Tacoma native Tim Moore, founder and president of Moor Innovative Technologies LLC (MIT), and they wanted to see it for themselves.
At the Seattle Police Athletic Association's firing range in Tukwila, the federal Department of Homeland Security held a test and demonstration to observe MIT's signature product: MITgel, a gel-based substance that, according to Moore, is 15 times stronger than steel and 40 percent stronger than today's dominant body armor component.
That last statistic is of particular note to Moore, whose firm is promoting MITGel for an alternative to Kevlar as a component in the next evolution of bulletproof vests.
Today's trial, in which a Homeland Security firearms trainer shot rounds from various guns into side-by-side bulletproof vests made from Kevlar fabric and from MITgel, could lead to lucrative sales to law enforcement departments, as well as the United States government.
“Kevlar's done a whole lot of good things,” said Moore, a local inventor who has been working on his gel for 10 years, “but it's been around since 1945. And we're going to prove that it's worn out.”
According to online sources, Kevlar was invented by a DuPont Chemical employee and has been used commercially since the 1970s.
“What we have brought to the market is something that's completely different that will endure way past Kevlar,” Moore said this morning. “It has multiple strengths that Kevlar doesn't, and the goal is for Kevlar for finally look up and say, 'There is a competitor.' And we're not going away.”
Documentation from Moore's company states that its gel product is up to 40 percent lighter than its nearest competitor, is stab and cut resistant — the gel self-heals around any rips or holes after being punctured and dulls blades that attempt to cut it — and is 90 percent effective in ballistic testing.
Indeed, judging by today's gun range results, the product is an impressive one.
The MITGel vest distributed the impact from shots from a 9-millimeter pistol up to a 12-gauge shotgun, fired from a standard 16-foot test distance and closer range. The vest, which is reinforced with layers of ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene fabric, stopped bullets from penetrating, even from a .45 caliber handgun at point blank range. Imagine a fabric-feel backed by a flat, sealed gel container.
Multiple groups are already interested in the product's applications. Linda Jadwin of Northwest Business & Community Development Center at Harborstone Credit Union, who has been advising Moore with business and marketing, said the U.S. Coast Guard has already approved MITGel for use in flotation devices because of its buoyant nature, uncoupled from its protective properties. And today, the Normandy Park Police commanders requested a MITGel vest for its officers to test.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from today's demonstration, though, will come in about three weeks, according to Jadwin.
“That's when we'll get the specs back from Underwriters Laboratory,” she said. “We sent the vest to them disassembled, and so they're taking all of those (components) and writing military specifications to match — this kind of weave, this kind of weave, all that stuff.”
The U.S. government will then take those specifications, along with the results of today's test and may issue an RFP for products that meet MITgel capabilities and might be used as protective equipment for sailors and soldiers.
“Any company can make those products,” Moore said. “I'm not keeping MITGel to myself. I want to license this so any company can use it to make things that will save lives.”
For more on Moore and MITGel, be sure to check your copy of the Business Examiner's upcoming Aug. 4 issue. Or click here to subscribe.