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1. Timeline Factors

  November 30th, 2015



Design and Prototyping

Kevlar was invented by chemist, Stephanie Kwolek in 1965. While working for DuPont, Kwolek’s job was to research and find “the next-generation high-performance fiber” (Quinn 2003). While she was the original founder of the product she had to convince her supervisor to use her solution on a spinning machine to turn it to fiber. He had his doubts but after they spun in Kwolek knew she had discovered something amazing. (Quinn 2003)


Manufacturing and Production

Kevlar is manufactured by DuPont in the United States. They have one factory in Richmond, Virginia and they just opened another factory near Charleston, South Carolina (Kevlar® Plant near Charleston, South Carolina, Opens to Meet Growing Demand). Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, has sited many of DuPont’s factories for unsatisfactory worker conditions. In 1998 DuPont was fined $70,000 after an employee filed a complaint that their work-related injury was not recorded or recognized by the company (Uddyback 1999). OSHA later found that DuPont failed to record 117 injuries at their Seaford plant in New York. OSHA cited DuPont for exposing workers to chemicals which led to a fatal accident (Fortson 2010). DuPont has had many injuries and deaths. The Richmond, Virginia factory that Kevlar is produced at recently had a scare. In April of this year 22 people were monitored at the hospital due to a liquid heating fluid leak. This was extremely dangerous because the liquid vaporizes at high temperature and then that vapor is flammable (Wise 2015).

Kevlar is made by taking the plastic, poly-para-phenylene terephthalamide, and turning it into a strong fiber. The fiber creates rods that are packed tight together; the rods form bonds which makes them stronger. This fiber is then put into a machine with a “hot, concentrated, and very viscous solution of poly-para-phenylene terephthalamide” (Woodford 2015) and spun to make the fiber. Then the fibers are cut and woven together to make the finished product of Kevlar.



When Kwolek first discovered Kevlar she was trying to find a substitute to steel to be used in tires. They found that Kevlar was not the right material for this. However, Kwolek said that she gave some of her fiber to another scientist at DuPont that as working on bullet proof vests. He wove the fiber into the vest and took it to testing. They found that the vest was bullet proof (Quinn 2003). Kevlar is used in so many products today but, bullet proof vests were the first product Kevlar was used in. Bullet proof vests are used by law enforcement and the military. Today there are roughly 13% of police officers are women (Crooke 2013) and about 14.5% of women in the military (CNN Staff 2013). Kevlar was mostly marketed towards men, but only because the professions the product is used for is male dominated.



Kevlar is used in many different products, but you can buy plain Kevlar fabric from pretty much anywhere. I even found a listing on eBay. You can get a 54” X 36” piece of Kevlar for $23.95 (eBay). Larger companies that use Kevlar in their products to make things like sail boat sales can go through DuPont and order a larger supply. DuPont also has a link of their page telling you where you can buy your own Kevlar in the United States.


User Support

If purchasing straight from DuPont you can go through their customer service if you have problems. But if you buy some Nike shoes that use Kevlar on the outside of the shoe as well as the shoe laces, you would go to Nike customer support.



Kevlar is maintenance free, but if you have a product made with the material you would maintain that as you normally would.


Recycling and Disposal

Kevlar is recyclable. After used the product is generally cut into pieces and then respun into new pieces. If you are in the military, they have programs on how to donate your used bullet proof vest and they will recycle it for you. If not, you can call your local recycling plant and ask if they accept Kevlar (Production and Recycling 2013).

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