Tactical Tailor

See The Newest Gore ePTFE Fiber Enhanced Fabrics at SOFIC

At next week’s Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa, Florida, WL Gore & Associates, Inc will exhibit uniforms made from the latest versions of fabrics enhanced with their ePTFE (expanded polytetrafluoroethylene) fiber technology. We first introduced you to the technology during SOFIC 2015.

As reminder, these are the performance enhancements, thanks to the inclusion of ePTFE.
-Low wet pick-up for faster dry time
-Faster dry time with moisture absorption
-High mechanical durability (break & tear strength)
-High strength to weight ratio (weight reduction)
-Low coefficient of friction offers low, wet cling and improved hand
-Tunable with other fiber blends inherent characteristics, like FR

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Sounds like a wonder material, doesn’t it? Makes you wonder why they haven’t just made shirts and pants out of pure ePTFE right? Sure, they could make an entire garment from the fiber, but they haven’t gone that far yet. Incremental improvement is always easier to accept, so rather than introducing a radical new technology, they considered how to enhance existing materials by adding ePTFE into weaves with more traditional fibers. “We took the NYCO you wear now and made it even better. That was our starting block,” explained Dave Minor, Fibers Technology Lead at WL Gore & Assoc. Since it’s adoption in the early 90s for military field garments, NYCO is common ground for all of the services and was the perfect place to begin their work.

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But, this isn’t Gore’s first go at fibers. You’re most likely familiar with WL Gore’s waterproof/breathable technology, known as GORE-Tex. However, that’s a membrane which is bonded to other fasce fabrics. WL Gore & Assoc is a worldwide corporation and boasts a wide range of technologies, including a great dental floss. Naturally, it’s strong, self lubricating and inert, meaning it won’t pick up any heebie-jeebies that might cause infections in your mouth. Later, they came up with a Gore thread, with the same properties. Looking back on those two products, you can see that the move to woven textiles was inevitable. However, in this instance, Gore set out to develop fabrics for military use, rather than looking first for commercial customers. The development didn’t happen overnight. Gore had to work with their supply chain to develop processes to weave the material and refine the ePTFE fibers introduced into the process. Few companies would take on the development of a completely new fabric technology without a formal requirement, leaving me very impressed with this investment.

While the fabric is a Gore product, it’s not GORE-Tex, meaning it’s not waterproof. Instead, it absorbs less water than traditional fabrics, due to the ePTFE’s inert nature. It also remains soft against the skin, yet strong. Product Specialist Cheryl Booth, emphasized the material’s attributes saying, “It’s super wicked strong.” Less water absorption doesn’t just equal more comfort, it also means it dries faster. To this end, I’d like to point out, some impressive numbers.

Dry Time Numbers/Increasing Strength When Wet Data
Dry time comparison based on MM-TS-07 test method shows Katana to dry in 20 minutes as compared to NyCo drying in 35 minutes.
Katana fabric will increase 15% in strength when wet. NyCo fabric will lose > 15% in strength when wet.

Although I found the technology remarkable the first time I saw it several years ago, Gore rested on their laurels. They’ve advanced the concept and made improvements from early construction. In addition to enhanced durability, they also improved printability and comfort. Those of you who are familiar with early uniforms made from Katana, may recall that the print looked washed out. To counter this effect, they moved the ePTFE fibers from the surface of the weave further to the rear. Not only did this result in richer printing, but more of the ePTFE is against the skin, resulting in increased comfort. The Saber fabric in the middle of the image below is from the first generation, while the MultiCam fabric to the left is from a recent production run. You can really see the difference the new weave makes.

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The Katana fabric has been chosen for use in the Arc’teryx LEAF Assault LT line of hot weather uniforms and has already been adopted for issue by allied units. It’s a No Melt, No Drip material thanks to the NYCO content, but does not offer full FR properties. However, they also have a full Nylon fabric called Saber which is much lighter than Katana, and much softer to the skin. This was developed for customers who don’t require NM/ND. I expect to see this offered in a commercial garment soon as well. As I mentioned earlier, Gore is working on turning other combinations of fibers into fabric. It could be could be any fiber, created specifically to enhance certain characteristics, like full FR. Gore’s team continues to work with customers to identify requirements. Additionally, while ePTFE is white, it can be solution dyed and Gore has demonstrated the use of such ePTFE fibers in a new fabric called Scimitar, seen above next to Katana (L) and Saber (C). A full Scimitar uniform is seen below.

GORE Scimitar_Front

Be sure to see the latest Gore ePTFE Fiber Enhanced Fabrics as well as other technologies at SOFIC in booth #1420.

news.goremilitary.com

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5 Responses to “See The Newest Gore ePTFE Fiber Enhanced Fabrics at SOFIC”

  1. Kemp says:

    One of the more innovative and exciting textile developments in reeent history. Good wirk, gore.

  2. Mike Nomad says:

    Is the caption for the second-to-last picture correct? Shouldn’t it be “…Katana (L) and Saber (C).” (?)

  3. REMF Tacticool says:

    Hm, CP G4s on the way apparently. If the all-encompassing reign of NYCO can actually be toppled that would be an interesting step.