Developing advanced armor is distinctively different than almost any other product. If the product doesn't work as intended, lives can be lost. ShotStop® Ballistics takes this very seriously and is determined to implement the most effective product development and manufacturing processes available to ensure the safety of the end users of our products.
Since 1984, the engineering team at ShotStop® Ballistics in Stow, Ohio, has been developing products and processes for a wide range of consumer, industrial and manufacturing applications, including advanced ballistic technologies. Over those three-plus decades, our engineers have established qualitative, measurable procedures that help guarantee its effectiveness and consistency in the manufacturing of advanced armor.
ShotStop has developed a five-step product development process that benefits the end user by providing more cost-effective solutions and faster transitions to manufacturing. For the first time ever, the manufacturer is revealing its advanced ballistics product development process in the hopes that others can learn from its 30+ years of experience.
Step One: Define Parameters
The first step in the advanced armor product development process is defining the exact parameters. Whether it's body armor meant to protect against armor piercing ammunition in the deserts of Iraq or stab and spike threats for corrections officers in high-risk prisons or the protection is intended for rooftop applications to withstand debris from hail, tornados, or hurricanes...each of these scenarios involves a different set of parameters.
More than just knowing the threat (handgun, high-powered rifle, knives, flying debris or anything in between), we also need a solid understanding of the environment in which the armor will be applied.
Will it be in a classroom?
Will it be used in extreme cold conditions?
Will it be applied to vehicles?
Will it be on top of a roof in a hurricane zone?
Will it be inside a panic & safe room?
The application of advanced armor - from sheets of bulletproof drywall to ballistic plates for police officers - is highly relevant to the development process. Once the threat and the environment are defined, along with an idea of budget, it's time to move to Phase 2 of the product development process.
Step Two: Computer Aided Design (CAD)
Today, more than ever, technology plays an extremely important role in the development of advanced ballistics. We utilize 3D CAD software and workstations that allow us to develop and test a product virtually before moving to the Prototyping Phase. Using this technology effectively can reduce the cost of product development by as much as 80 to 90 percent and reduce the time to market significantly.
With the information gathered from the first step, our engineers take advantage of this advanced 3D CAD technology to consider different raw materials that may be used, and how assembly and layering might work to address the parameters defined up front. Ultimately, the goal is to run multiple "what if" scenarios in a virtual environment in order to choose the best theoretical options of three variations to ensure a cost-effective Prototyping Phase.
Step Three: Prototyping
Traditional methods of prototyping can involve months of work and tens of thousands of dollars in development costs. Utilizing the advanced 3D CAD software and powerful workstations described in the previous phase, ShotStop's Prototyping focuses on only the best, most viable options.
During Prototyping, there are three core factors we consider:
Several variations of each factor are considered in order to produce the most effective prototypes to meet the requirements set forth in step one.
Step Four: Internal & External Third-Party Testing
After making it through the Prototyping Phase, it’s time for “real-world” testing to ensure it meets or exceeds the intended results. Utilizing both internal experts and accredited third-party ballistics laboratories, the various prototypes are tested in both simulated testing environments and often “on the range.”
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is the research, development and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice. The NIJ Standards and Testing Program fosters development of equipment standards and related conformity assessment programs that specifically address the needs of law enforcement, corrections and other criminal justice agencies. The goal is to ensure to the degree possible that equipment is safe, reliable and performs according to established minimum requirements.
Standards-based testing, where products are tested in accordance with commercial voluntary national performance standards, is conducted at NIJ-approved independent testing laboratories.
In addition to formal testing through these NIJ-approved laboratories, we also perform our own internal testing utilizing the knowledge and access of our partners in law enforcement, military, and tactical training. Plus, we have had the privilege of being reviewed by some of the leading body armor influencers in the market.
If, at any time during the Testing Phase, a product fails to perform as desired or expected, the process reverts back to Prototyping or 3D CAD Phase to re-evaluate the core elements of the product and understand why it failed and what needs to be done to engineer an effective solution.
The combination of both internal and external, third party testing ensures our advanced armor products are of the highest quality and protection levels.
Step Five: Production
Once the product successfully passes all the required testing, it’s time to move to production. Because of all the knowledge and effort invested in the first four phases in the process, production becomes a relatively smooth and efficient step.
Although Production is officially the last step in the process, smart, innovative companies don’t stop after initially passing a test; they are continually pushing, improving and making changes to create a better product. ShotStop takes pride in being flexible and always focusing on continuous improvement of its products and processes.
What Does All This Mean?
In this article, we definitely got into more technical details than most manufacturers typically do. The reason for this is to help educate those who are looking for advanced body armor, to help them understand that not all armor is created equally. Very few companies have the knowledge, experience and access to the tools necessary to develop ballistic armor; even fewer are open to sharing their process of product development.
If you have questions, we’d love to talk. Contact us here or call 800-986-0795 or 330-686-0020.
U.S.-based ShotStop® Ballistics is developing the lightest, thinnest, and strongest advanced armor technologies in the world. From body armor plates and armored vehicle protection, to its innovative BallisticBoard® material and custom armor solutions, ShotStop® Ballistics is leading the way in improving the protection of our police, military, special forces, S.W.A.T., security personnel, and more. With technical expertise that spans more than 35 years, the ShotStop® team brings together engineers, Ph.D.’s, chemists, product developers, and ballistic specialists, to create ballistic technology that saves lives, reduces physical encumbrance, and maximizes performance. ShotStop® consistently uses independent and federally accredited ballistic labs, including the Department of Defense and National Institute of Justice, to ensure ShotStop® armor provides our servicemen and women with the best possible protection. Contact ShotStop® Ballistics at www.ShotStop.com, call 800-986-0795/1-330-686-0020, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to 1000 Campus Dr., Suite 300, Stow, Ohio 44224.