Tuesday, January 10, 2012

How thick does Transparent Armor need to be?

A question that we are frequently asked is how thick is transparent armor made from glass and polycarbonate?
The answer to the question depends on what level of threat the armor needs to stop. As we discussed in a recent post, the Kinetic energy of a bullet can be calculated if the weight of the bullet and the speed of the bullet are known using the following formula:

Kinetic Energy (Joules) = 1/2 x Mass of bullet (grams) x [Velocity of bullet (m/s)]^2

The more Kinetic Energy the bullet has, the thicker and heavier the transparent armor needs to be. Of course there are many manufacturers of bullet resistant glass and transparent armor. Each of these manufacturers have their own knowledge of how to produce the lightest and thinest armor to stop a specific threat. However, if we look at the top military transparent armor producers, there is only limited variation in the performance of the products.

We recently compared data published on the internet from the top laminators to see how thick and how heavy their products are to stop a given threat. We compared products that were designed to stop rounds with between 650 Joules and 3500 Joules of Energy. Many of the manufacturers do not publish the data for rounds with Energy above 3500 Joules as much of the information is classified.

Within the energy range considered there was surprisingly little variation in the thickness and weight of products. We analyzed the data and carried out some linear regression and were able to obtain the following equations:

Thickness (mm) = [0.0085 x Energy (Joules)] + 10

Weight (kg/m^2) = [0.02 x Energy (Joules)] +20

Using these equations we can calculate that to stop a bullet weighing 9.45 g and traveling at 830 m/s the energy would be about 3255 Joules.
This would give a thickness of about 38 mm and a weight of about 85 kg/m2.

Of course, just making some transparent armor of this thickness and weight does not guarantee that it will stop this level of threat. The armor has to be properly designed and tested by a certified testing company. The figures do show what the main manufacturers are able to achieve.
It should also be remembered that the Kinetic Energy is not the only factor that needs to be considered - other factors such as the shape of the bullet need to be taken into account.

The above figures are based upon transparent armor solutions using Glass and Polycarbonate. A more expensive option is to use advanced materials in the construction such as transparent ceramics. The performance of these ceramics, while not available in detail, is discussed on some of the manufacturers websites and claims of 20% weight reduction and 10% thickness reduction are listed.