Friday, April 13, 2012

DuPont ballistics focus on India

Neelam Mathews
April 13, 2012

Dupont's fully-owned subsidiary Dupont India's first integrated ballistics facility at the DuPont Knowledge Center in Hyderabad, is also Asia Pacific’s first. The ballistics testing range, a 600-ton helmet press and stab testing equipment, all housed in a single location, are part of the company’s strategic expansion into India.

Locating a facility in India has big advantages to the company including proximity to its customers, tapping a large skill base, economics and a quick turnaround time in developing solutions. The facility has the capability to upgrade and test performance and can conduct tests based on international standards to test arms, ammunition, bulletproof vests and helmets, all of which, India needs on an emergency basis.

As India’s market gets ready to adapt hi-technology and leaps into new technology, compromises cannot be made. With threat perceptions changing, the end-users such as the police and military, provide a big opportunity for the company, said Rajeev A Vaidya, President, South Asia. The facility tests ballistic protection capabilities against high energy rounds of 9mm FMJ.

DuPont is expanding its expertise to develop a broader portfolio of DuPont Kevlar materials that address local needs. The yarn and the coating resin is manufactured in the U.S.

Customizing products to local needs is essential as lessons learnt from Brazil show. The thickness and design of a vest depends on the kind of crime prevalent. For example in Brazil, protection is provided for small robberies. In Delhi, people might be more likely to get stabbed while in some areas, there might be need for protection from bullets and knives, which would need more fiber layers. This innovation is manufactured in India “with partners under contract.” “Once we understand the market needs, we will expand the capability of Kevlar,” says Yati Waghray, technology leader, DuPont Knowledge Center

The market is large. For instance, MKU, India’s manufacturer and supplier of ballistic protection and surveillance equipment was awarded a contract by the CRPF for the supply of 59,000 light weight bullet proof jackets for paramilitary forces under Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), worth over Rs. 100 crores.

Indian defense and internal security forces have unique and challenging ballistics protection requirements,” said Waghray. “We can test under local conditions and against local ammunition using international standards, meeting local requirements.”

“Dupont plans to face challenges through collaboration and inclusive innovation.We are here to work with end users (military, para-military and DRDO) to develop solutions,” added Waghray. It is not clear whether MKU is a client.

Dupont has been working with DRDO labs in the past and plans to in future. It may be recalled following the scam during the trial of bulletproof jackets to be used by the Nation Security Guard and various other paramilitary forces for part of the 59,000 bullet proof vests, a fresh trial had been ordered after a DRDO scientist admitted to irregularities in the testing process.

“We can't afford for quality to be compromised," CRPF Director General A.S Gill, was quoted saying. The Union Government had also asked DRDO to clean up its act.

This is perhaps where DuPont could play a relevant and imminent role. As government’s requirements on quality get stringent, the DuPont Ballistics Facility will allow DuPont to work closely with its customers and end-users in an application testing facility able to develop solutions that can be tested under local conditions.

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