Zylon is a synthetic fiber developed by Toyobo Co., Ltd. ("Toyobo"), a company headquartered in Osaka, Japan. Zylon - the strongest man-made fiber in the world - has four extraordinary characteristics:
- Extraordinary tensile strength -- it is stronger than steel and twice as strong as Kevlar® - Remarkably high modulus (resistance of fiber to stretch) -- also twice as high as Kevlar - Flame resistance -- it will burn only when exposed to atmospheric conditions consisting of at least 68% oxygen, a state that is not naturally encountered in Earth's atmosphere - Incredible thermal stability -- it will decompose only at temperatures in excess of 1470° Fahrenheit
Zylon's unique physical properties allow Zylon-based body armor to provide remarkable ballistic protection at a light -- and therefore comfortable and wearable -- weight. Since the introduction of Zylon-based bullet-resistant vests, the percentage of police officers wearing them regularly has increased significantly. The result: more lives saved.
In the last several months, there have been at least six reported Zylon "saves" by body armor manufacturers other than Second Chance.
- On September 9, 2003, New Mexico State Police Officer Don Day responded to a Motor Vehicle Division call. While attempting to apprehend the suspect, Officer Day was shot three times, with one of the rounds to his belly being stopped by his body armor. Officer Day was wearing an American Body Armor Extreme ZXS, level II vest. - On September 23, 2003, Lt. Randall White of Minidoka County Sheriffs Office, Idaho, was working to capture a bank robbery suspect, when he was fired upon four times with one of the 9mm rounds striking his vest and the other three his extremities. The doctor treating his wounds remarked that the ballistic vest took most of the energy from the one body shot and likely saved his life. Lt. White was wearing an American Body Armor Xtreme ZTZ, level IIIA vest. - On September 24, 2003, Trooper A. W. Spinks of the Georgia State Patrol was saved when his vest stopped a round fired at his chest while pursuing a suspect. Trooper Spinks was wearing an American Body Armor Xtreme ZX, Level II vest. - On December 27, 2003, Sergeant James Sinkler of the South Carolina Highway Patrol, was saved by his body armor, when he was shot in the chest by a round from a .357 magnum revolver during a traffic stop. Sergeant Sinkler was wearing a Gator Hawk vest. - On April 17, 2004, Officer Tony Norris of the Black Mountain, North Carolina Police Department was saved by his vest that stopped a round from a .357 magnum from a distance of three feet during a shootout. Officer Norris was wearing a Gator Hawk, Excel Level II vest, a Zylon/Gold Flex hybrid. - And, on April 24, 2004, Officer Brian "Kyle" Bennett of the Oklahoma City Police Department was shot in the chest while responding to a bar fight. The bullet was stopped by his body armor, and he suffered only a bruise. Officer Bennett was wearing an Xtreme X vest, manufactured by American Body Armor.
2. Toyobo Manufactures a Fiber, NOT Body Armor
Toyobo only sells Zylon in spools of continuous filament fiber. Toyobo does not make -- and has never made -- body armor. Zylon is just one of many component parts that are incorporated by body armor manufacturers into their final products.
The manufacturers of body armor, or their designated weavers, convert Zylon fiber into a very wide array of different styles and strengths of fabric for use in ballistic applications.
Typically, bullet-resistant vests are constructed of multiple plies of ballistic material, assembled into a protective panel. The protective panel is then inserted into a carrier, which is constructed of conventional fabric, such as nylon or cotton.
The bullet-resistant vest manufacturer may construct a given model of ballistic panel from a single ballistic material or from two or more materials in combination. It is essential that sufficient material and a suitable margin of safety be incorporated into well-designed, properly-manufactured body armor. The National Institute of Justice ("NIJ") sets minimum standards that manufacturers must meet in order to comply with the appropriate NIJ threat level standard.
No two bullet-resistant vest designs are the same. Each manufacturer's designs vary in many respects, such as the number of plies, the type of material or materials used, whether the material is woven or non-woven, the fabric optimization, including the type of weave used, the stitching, if any, and the covering material. The overall design of the vest is the most important factor affecting its efficacy.
3. Toyobo Conducts Thorough Testing of Zylon and Openly Shares Its Results
When Zylon leaves Toyobo's control, it is in the form of a spool of fiber. It is that fiber which Toyobo is responsible for, and it is that fiber which Toyobo tests. Toyobo does not design or manufacture, and has no expertise in designing or manufacturing, bullet-resistant vests. It therefore does not conduct, and is not qualified to conduct, testing of any of the many designs of individual bullet-resistant vests manufactured by other companies. That is the responsibility of the manufacturer of each vest.
Because product safety is Toyobo's number one priority, Toyobo has long conducted tests on its fiber to understand the aging performance of Zylon. In July of 2001, soon after Toyobo completed the first round of its "acceleration testing" on Zylon fibers (subjecting Zylon to excessive, constant strain), it shared the results of those tests with the body armor industry. The report indicated that Zylon fiber degrades when exposed to conditions of extreme heat and high humidity. Toyobo has continued to prepare and furnish the results of its Zylon testing to the industry on a quarterly, then semi-annual, basis since January 1, 2002.
Zylon's modulus, an engineering term used to describe the resistance of fiber to stretch, remains extremely high, even after exposure to high temperatures and humidity. Many body armor industry experts and manufacturers believe that fiber modulus is the single most important characteristic to be taken into account when designing or engineering a vest. The tensile modulus for Zylon fiber remains constant -- with no deterioration whatsoever -- even after exposure to 104° Fahrenheit and 80% relative humidity for 24 hours a day, over almost 600 days.
It has long been common knowledge in the industry that all ballistic materials, including Kevlar, Twaron®, Spectra®, Dyneema®, and Zylon, are susceptible to degradation over time, and under certain conditions. Bullet-resistant vest manufacturers take these specific qualities of different fibers into account in engineering their unique end-product, and build in an appropriate safety margin. Just as bullet-resistant vest manufacturers using Kevlar must take into account that Kevlar's tensile strength is much lower than Zylon's so too must manufacturers using Zylon take into account Zylon's rate of tensile strength degradation.
Toyobo, and almost all body armor manufacturers, believe that Zylon, far from being "unsafe" for use in ballistic applications, is the safest, lightest and best bullet-resistant fiber available in the world today.
4. Second Chance Body Armor, Inc. ("Second Chance") is the Only Body Armor Manufacturer to Report Failures in its Zylon-Based Body Armor
Second Chance, which boasted that it created the "lightest, thinnest" vests possible with the introduction of the Ultima and Ultimax models, has experienced at least three reported vest penetrations in the field with its vests. Importantly, no other body armor manufacturer has experienced a failure of Zylon-based body armor in the field. Second Chance has also reported numerous failures of its Ultima and Ultimax vests during internal testing over the past three years but has not shared those test results publicly, despite requests that they do so, so the failure rate is unknown.
Second Chance continued to sell its Ultima and Ultimax vests until September, 2003 - several months after the shootings of several police officers whose Second Chance vests were reportedly penetrated in June 2003. In September 2003, Second Chance withdrew these models from the market, alleging that Zylon had durability problems, and that this was an "industry-wide" issue, rather than a problem unique to Second Chance's own vests. Ironically, notwithstanding its claims for the past eight months that the reasons for the failures of its Ultima and Ultimax vests was Zylon-related, Second Chance continued to sell its Tri-Flex vests -- which contain Zylon -- until April 2004, when they discontinued sales for a totally unrelated reason.
Second Chance has reported that it has been unable to procure product liability insurance for some of its body armor. No other manufacturer has reported similar problems. We are unable to comment on the reasons why an insurance company may have decided not to insure products manufactured by Second Chance.
Second Chance claims to have been conducting "continuous" testing of its vests for the last five years, and claims to have retrieved and tested 340 used Ultima vests from the field. Second Chance has not shared these test results with law enforcement officers, investigators, litigants, the media or the general public. Indeed, some of Second Chance's own top scientists have been denied access to the test data.
And, in litigations where Second Chance's test results have been requested, Second Chance has fought for a confidentiality agreement, refusing to disclose highly relevant test data unless the parties first agree not to share the test results with anyone else. Second Chance has consistently refused to make all but one of its employees available for deposition -- and that person has only testified in one of the numerous suits brought against Second Chance.
Numerous bullet-resistant vest manufacturers besides Second Chance (including Honeywell, Inc., Armor Holdings, and Pacific Safety Products, Inc.) have conducted studies of their own end-products containing Zylon and have reported no unexpected decrease in ballistic performance. These manufacturers and others (including DHB (Point Blank), First Choice, Gator Hawk, and PT Armor) continue to use Zylon in their vests.
Manufacturers who continue to use Zylon with no problems have incorporated an adequate "safety margin" into their end-products, such as the incorporation of sufficient plies of Zylon or a specialized protective covering material, to assure superior vest performance regardless of Zylon's tensile strength degradation.
5. Toyobo Has Responded Responsibly and Proactively to the Lawsuits Brought by Various States Relating to Body Armor
Attorneys general from five states have instituted lawsuits against parties for their involvement in the manufacture of allegedly unsafe body armor. Each of those lawsuits has named Second Chance as the primary defendant. No other body armor manufacturer has been sued by any state attorney general.
Notwithstanding the fact that Toyobo is not a defendant in any lawsuit brought by a state attorney general, Toyobo has reached out to those states and provided them with test data and correspondence that might assist in their respective litigations. Moreover, Toyobo representatives have voluntarily met with various state and police officials throughout the United States to offer any additional assistance that might be requested.
When Toyobo learned that the NIJ and various attorneys general were studying bullet-resistant vests, Toyobo volunteered all of its testing data, and offered to answer any questions the NIJ or attorneys general may have. Toyobo will continue to co-operate fully in these investigations, which Toyobo believes will bring welcome reassurance to those who entrust their lives to the integrity of Zylon body armor.
On Second Chance's website, Second Chance President Paul Banducci states that Toyobo has consistently claimed not to be subject to the jurisdiction of courts in the United States. That is not true. Toyobo is fully co-operating in all lawsuits and government investigations. Indeed, rather than seeking to avoid answering these charges, Toyobo welcomes the opportunity to demonstrate that it at all times promptly shared data with body armor manufacturers, did not withhold relevant data, and that Zylon is suitable for use in ballistic applications when the body armor is properly manufactured and designed.
Some Plaintiffs have erroneously sued Toyobo America, Inc. ("Toyobo America"), an independent United States subsidiary of Toyobo, which was not involved in any way in the production or sale of Zylon. Toyobo America has set forth its position that it simply does not belong in these lawsuits, and has contested jurisdiction where appropriate. Indeed, Toyobo America has already been dismissed from lawsuits because of this and we believe that Toyobo America will be dismissed from all filed cases on this basis.
Toyobo has adopted a position of transparency and cooperation. Toyobo will respond to all discovery requests served on it in any Zylon-related litigation. In addition, Toyobo will make available its employees to provide sworn deposition testimony.