Tactical Tailor

Archive for the ‘Materials’ Category

Rapid Equipping Force’s Afghanistan Ex Lab Transforms Soldiers’ Ideas Into Reality

Sunday, November 25th, 2018

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — At Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, there is a place that wants to know about your tactical problems.


The forward team of the U.S. Army Rapid Equipping Force or REF, wants Soldiers to bring their ideas regarding equipment on how to accomplish their missions more efficiently.

REF’s mission is to provide innovative materiel solutions to meet the urgent requirements of U.S. Army forces employed globally, inform materiel development for the future force, and on order, expand to meet the operational demands. Its focus is on immediate-need materiel solutions at the small-unit level.


“We try to paint that picture for them that you know there’s a lot of capabilities that reside in this building, in the organization,” said Lt. Col. Scott Cantlon, REF forward team chief.

Cantlon is not new to this position as he has also spent time as the REF Forward Team chief in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan for periods in 2016 and 2017.


“If you need something here and now and rapidly produced, if you have an idea ,a problem, and you think you have a solution in your head, you can sit down and talk with our engineers and there’s a good chance they’re going to be able to design something,” Cantlon said. “Not only design it, but prototype it, and give it to you for some operational feedback.”

The REF team in Bagram offers the capability of rapid prototyping through the Expeditionary Lab or Ex Lab.


The engineers in the Ex Lab are capable of taking a Soldier’s concern, and if feasible, fabricating the solution through 3D printing, sewing, machining, or electrical work.

“Three-Dimensional printing has come a long way in the last 10 to 15 years. Today we have 3D printers where you can drop a design on a computer, hit print, and the next morning have a full made-out part that is of the same quality as a machine part in term of tolerance and the cavities (compartments) it can do,” said Dr. Patrick Fowler, former lead engineer of the Ex Lab, who redeployed back to the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, in late October.


“And in fact, it exceeds what you can do with a machine because you can create spaces that you would never be able to reach with a tool,” Fowler said.

Fowler has a bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees all in mechanical engineering. Fowler volunteered for this deployment — his first — to fulfill a lifelong dream of serving in his own way with Warfighters.


“This is the only job that I’m aware where an engineer can get a requirement directly from the Warfighter and give them something that goes out the next day on a mission and immediately get feedback, and be able to keep the Warfighter in the design loop,” Fowler said.

The Ex Lab is equipped with design software and other limited metal bending capability among other things.


And depending on what it is, these new products can be made in limited quantities to equip Soldiers.

“We make things that have never been made before to respond to a tactical gap,” Fowler said.

“If you can imagine it, then we can make it for you,” he said. “The capabilities that we have here are broad ranging even though we use a lot of 3D printing, we can do traditional metal parts, we can do electronics fabrication, we can do programming, there’s a lot of capability here.”


The REF, headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, started in 2002 after Soldiers realized the need for non-standard equipment to meet the demands of their wartime mission.

The Ex Lab has reachback ties with the RDECOM for its expertise and additional manufacturing capabilities.


The REF is the Army’s quick-reaction capability for getting urgent material solutions in the hands of Warfighters. It’s able to do this using a request document known as “10-Liner”, where Soldiers capture the requirements and submit.

Sometimes, the need is met with commercial and government off-the-shelf technologies. But when not available and if approved, the engineers will design and fabricate a solution to meet a Soldier’s needs.


“The work out here, the things we do, it’s very rewarding,” said Ryan Muzii, a support engineer with the Ex lab. “We can do things no other organization can do. A Warfighter can come in with a problem and we can get after it. It’s just such a great asset.”

Muzii has nine years total working for the REF’s reachback support element, Edgewood Chemical Biological Center’s Advanced Design and Manufacturing Division, whose headquarters is at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. He also has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a minor in mathematics.

As of November, Muzii will have been deployed two years to Afghanistan in support of the Ex Lab.

The time to procure and deliver nonstandard equipment. REF’s goal is to fill a requirement within 180 days.

The Ex Lab typically produces a solution in less than 30 days…sometimes in a few days depending on the requirement.

Locations and manning requirements for the REF have varied during the last 16 years based on the missions and number of personnel in theater. The REF also has forward teams in Kuwait and Iraq.

Since 2002, many new technologies have been equipped to help accomplish the mission more efficiently. Current projects include persistent duration unmanned aerial systems, electronic warfare, unmanned and counter-unmanned aerial systems, expeditionary force protection and so much more.

“Honestly, practically all these projects [we do here] someone walks in on I never would have thought. I have no prior military experience … I’ve always been an engineer,” Muzii said.

“Some of the things they (Soldiers) come up with are so innovative and creative, but not reliable, you know, it’s kind of thrown together,” he said. “But a lot of times people make it work; I mean we’re the U.S. Army, we make it work.”

On January 30, 2014, the Army declared the REF an enduring capability. It now reports to the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command where it will continue to support Soldiers deployed globally for years to come.

“Hey, you have this asset at your disposal. It doesn’t matter what rank you are,” said Muzii. “It doesn’t matter where you are in the CJOA-A — Combined Joint Operations Area-Afghanistan — we will come to you. It doesn’t matter how big or small your problem is, as we can help you.”

In Afghanistan, contact the REF and Ex Lab at:
DSN Unclassified:
(318) 481-6293
DSN Classified:
(308) 431-5012

Story and photos by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs (Select photos courtesy of REF PAO)

HLC Invites You to the 3rd Annual 2019 SHOT Show – Suppliers Showcase

Monday, November 19th, 2018

HLC INDUSTRIES INC is a nylon synthetic fabric supplier, focusing on 1oz to 18oz nylon fabrics, and offers an in-stock program of both Piece Dyed Nylon and Solution Dyed Cordura fabrics in both 500D and 1000D, in Black, Coyote Brown 498, Tan 499 and Ranger Green. In 2019, they will also be adding a couple of new colors to their offerings of Solution Dyed Cordura.

Visit them at booth #S 1902

Info: peter@hlcindustries.com

Dickie’s Reflective Prints

Thursday, November 15th, 2018

Although Dickie’s wasn’t the only brand at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market to feature these reflective prints on their garments, this was the best example I had seen. Think safety and not camouflage.

Now, consider designators printed into fabric which only reflect certain bands of light, only visible with the assistance of night vision or thermal devices.

New Applications Of Gore SHAKEDRY Fabric

Thursday, November 15th, 2018

In the WL Gore & Assoc booth at the recent Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, they displayed two now applications of their SHAKEDRY fabric.

SHAKEDRY is extremely lightweight because the GORE-TEX membrane is the outer surface, meaning water simply beads up and runs off. It’s also the most breathable membrane yet, making it great for high intensity activity. Finally, it’s windproof.

First up is a concept jacket from Burton which incorporates insulation making it a very lightweight insulated shell. Notice this is a White Label garment meaning that it’s going to keep you comfortable, but it’s not the traditional “guaranteed to keep you dry” application we are used to. You’re going to see more and more uses of Gore’s flagship material ePTFE in new ways.

The other is a Cycling Jacket from Gore’s own brand, Gorewear. What’s unique about this minimalist piece is that they’ve added stretch technology under the arms and at the hem in order to facilitate bending forward on a bike. The C7 is available now.

ORWM 18 – Beyond K6 ARX Rain Jacket and Pant

Friday, November 9th, 2018

Awhile back we teased the ARX Rain Jacket and Pant. They are the level 6 garment in Beyond’s new Kyros line which is made from foreign sourced materials.

In particular, this ensemble features the debut of Beyond’s proprietary Lutra, a 3-layer waterproof breathable fabric.

The jacket has several other design features. For instance, the hood can be rolled up and buttoned out of the way.

Additionally, the zipper feature new hardware and redesigned garages.

On the inside there is a pass through and cable management for electronics cords.

Finally, the cuffs are fashioned from Hypalon.

In addition to the Jacket, there is a Pant.

It is also made from Lutra and features full length side zips to facilitate donning and doffing, but these don’t separate at the top. The bottom cuff is secured with a snap and there are Cordura patches at the instep to mitigate wear.

There are also actually zippered hand pockets rather than pass through and a G-hook closure at the integral belt.


USMC to Field Gen III Vest Systems with FirstSpear Technology

Friday, November 2nd, 2018

Fenton, MO – FirstSpear® Technology Group, industry leading technology integrator for Personal Protective and Load Bearing Equipment, announces the Gen III vest systems for the United States Marine Corps (USMC) will be produced and fielded with FirstSpear® Technology. After extensive testing and evaluation, the Marines chose to include FirstSpear® 6/12™ laser cutting and Tubes™ rapid-release system on the all new Gen III Vest System.

Debuted on Solider Systems Daily in 2011 and proven in the field for over seven years, FS™ 6/12™ laser-cut platforms and rapid-release Tubes™ fasteners are embraced by assets of the United States Department of Defense, State and Federal Law Enforcement Agencies, and friendly forces within the international community. The FS™ 6/12™ laser-cut and fused platform system helped the USMC achieve their goals for reducing bulk and weight of legacy PALS systems.

USMC Systems Command wanted to give as much mobility back to the individual Marine as possible by reducing the weight and bulk of the vest without decreasing ballistic protection. Integrating 6/12 laser cutting and Tubes allowed designers to reduce the weight of the vest by 25 percent.*

FS™ Tubes provide rapid donning and doffing of carriers without complicated cable systems adding weight or requiring specialized training and allows the Marine to remove and reassemble their vest in less than three seconds. Vest testing found the older system took about seven seconds to take off, and 10 minutes to reassemble. The Tubes have vastly improved the Marines ability to act fast while on missions.*

According to Sam White, Vice President of Applied Science at FirstSpear®, “Our primary mission is to provide equipment solutions to the men and women protecting our freedoms and the fastest way to do that is by working with industry partners and program managers to make this technology widely available. We couldn’t be more excited the USMC has integrated this technology into their new vest system and look forward to helping Vertical Protective Apparel provide it to the Marines.”

FirstSpear™ continually develops and refines Technology to meet the ever-changing requirements of the warfighter and first responder. Paramount to every development effort is a focus on mobility, lethality, weight reduction, functionality, durability, and manufacturability. Ideas are well thought out, tested, and proven in actual field use before general release, ensuring the final product works as intended when needed most. Once proven, FirstSpear® works closely with end users and manufacturers to allow for rapid fielding of advanced solutions.

For more information or to contact FirstSpear® Technology Group on how you can integrate these technologies visit www.first-spear.tech.




Protactic and BIO-Traze Tracking Technology Partners with FS Technology Group

Thursday, October 25th, 2018

Fenton, MO – (October 18, 2018) FirstSpear® Technology Group (FSTG), industry leading technology integrator for Personal Protective and Load Bearing Equipment is working closely with Protactic Security to implement 6/12™ Laser Cutting and Tubes™ into the Mexican Marines new generation body armor system with BIO-Traze tracking technology.

FirstSpear Technology Group’s primary mission is to provide equipment solutions to the men and women protecting our freedoms and the fastest way to do this is by working with industry partners and program managers to make this technology widely available. That means working with the best manufacturers and material providers in US and allied nations. One of those companies is Protactic.

When FSTG evaluates potential partners, many things must be considered. Not only does Protactic have an outstanding reputation for quality and manufacturing, they utilize an advanced proprietary technology called BIO-Traze. This technology is designed to improve inventory control and reduce potential for corruption and impersonation. Protactic implemented a number of features ranging from visible QR codes to invisible security codes and embedded RFID technologies to guarantee the government can track garments from the factory to individual users. Using the database, Mexican Marines are issued garments with their biometric data coded specifically into their garments. This allows full accountability for garments matched to end-users. Over 800,000 garments have been issued without a single case of fraud or impersonation since 2015.

In short, BIO-Traze, along with Protactic’s advanced materials and FirstSpear 6/12 and TUBES help ensure that the good guys always have the advantage.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Awards Protect The Force for Development of Photovoltaic Energy Harvesting Fabrics for First Responders

Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

An Award Through the Silicon Valley Innovation Program Under the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate

Protect The Force Inc., a leader in design and technology for military, law enforcement, fire and rescue, has received an award to develop photovoltaic energy harvesting fabrics from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T).

In what is the first award under the DHS S&T’s Silicon Valley Innovation Program’s (SVIP’s). Energy Harvesting Fabrics solicitation, Protect The Force will provide a proof-of-concept of a photovoltaic fiber that can be woven into an energy harvesting fabric. The fabric would be used in first responder garments with a goal to provide reliable power for charging batteries or power electronics.  The award is for the first phase of a four-phase program and is valued at $199,260.

The goal of the Energy Harvesting Fabrics solicitation is to seek new fiber technology that can be integrated into first responder uniforms, such as daily use uniforms, with the ability to charge radios, sensors and other electronics worn on the frontlines by police officers, medical personnel. The scope of the call also includes wildland firefighter uniforms that can withstand the extreme conditions of wildfires and structural firefighter gear used when responding to building fires.

Protect The Force will work closely with Dr. Ramaswamy Nagarajan, Professor at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell (UML), utilizing UML’s recently unveiled Fabric Discovery Center (FDC) facilities and with Tweave LLC to execute on this first phase of the project. UML- FDC acknowledges the support from the Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Initiative (M2I2) that provided the funding for the acquisition of equipment that will be used in the fabrication of the photovoltaic fibers. UML-FDC also acknowledges Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA), NEXTFLEX and Advanced Robotics Manufacturing (ARM) USA Institutes.

“We are honored to be the recipients of this award from the prestigious DHS Science and Technology Directorate’s Silicon Valley Innovation Program,” stated Francisco J. Martinez, Protect The Force Chief Technology Officer.

“We would like to thank Dr. Nagarajan and Ms. Claire Lepont at UML-FDC for their relentless efforts in developing a winning proposal. We also appreciate the support of Tweave LLC’s General Manager Ms. Mary Reardon, as a key player in the project. We now look forward to the kick-off and execution of this project and to developing a potentially lifesaving technology to our First Responders.”

“It is estimated that the global market for energy harvesting is expected to reach $4.4 billion by 2021,” continued Mr. Martinez.  “With defense being the second most significant area of application, this segment is expected to reach approximately $845 million by 2019. The US Army is increasingly using energy harvesting in wearable devices.  First responders are also growing their use and need for equipment to aid communications, awareness, safety and improved technical ability in emergencies.”

“Our success in this program creates a great opportunity not only for our work with first responders and DHS, but for developing energy harvesting fabrics for the consumer market place including the outdoor industry, geo-textiles, marine industry and other markets,” concluded Mr. Martinez.