Andy Smith
Mine action specialist

Flexible Ceramic Composite (FCC) Armour


For details of my work developing PPE for Humanitarian Demining see Developing Body Armour for HD, Developing face and eye protection for HD, and Developing safer hand tools.

My designs are all made for use in Humanitarian Mine Action (HMA) in which they are used all day while engaged in physical hard work and where the most common hazard is a small anti-personnel blast mine. The resulting protection level is a compromise between what is practical and what is possible: a 5mm thick visor is not always enough while a well designed body armour apron meeting IMAS provides more blast protection than is strictly necessary and no protection against the nastier fragmentation risks.

It simply was not practical to design or promote armour for HMA that could reliably stop fragments travelling at 800-1000m/s from an AP fragmentation mine such as the PROM-1 - so I advocate avoiding the risk with the use of machines (especially mini-flails) before demining in those areas. But of course, a flail is not of much use in areas littered with submunitions or with ammunition store kickouts. Decent high-velocity protection for occasional wear would still be useful.

Given recent conflicts, you might think that the PPE industry would have come up with a new material that could provide protection against high velocity threats - but that has not happened (or has not been made public). Kevlar yarn and weaves have been improved, but hard steel and ceramic panels inserted into pockets in Kevlar armour remain the norm - and I have never seen these panels used in demining activities. Their size is limited because they restrict a soldier's ability to move freely, fire his weapon and conduct the tasks assigned to him. Many soldiers are injured or killed by high velocity rifle bullets that miss the panels and penetrate the lower-velocity Kevlar. Even if the Kevlar is not compromised, the blunt trauma as bullets push onto it can break bones and disrupt internal organs in a way that causes severe injuries or death.

So I decided to see whether I could make a flexible ceramic armour material that was able to stop high velocity projectiles while being flexible enough to provide something close to all-over protection. As usual, I needed to be able to make it myself and get it proven empirically - in this case using bullets rather than theories. Not being a specialist in ballistic threats, I have been frequently cut on the edge of this learning curve - mostly with expense - but I finally got there.

This link tells you in detail how to make the FCC (Flexible Ceramic Composite) body armour material. With minor investment, you can do this in a home workshop (I did it in my garage) but I do not think it would be commercially viable without significant investment in tooling.

While probably of limited use in HD, the FCC has many other potential uses. I am publishing the detail about how to make it to prevent unscrupulous others claiming it as their own.

Although some of the ideas incorporated into the FCC have been patented before, those patents have expired. The detailed combination of design and materials in the FCC have been previously 'published' by being communicated to the UK MoD and others.

I am happy for anyone to use my work as the basis for further R&D or product development. An acknowledgment would be appreciated but that is not a requirement.