During manufacturing, choosing the right materials is crucial as extreme temperatures can warp or damage parts. When looking for a durable, heat-resistant material, Nomex® stands out among other manufacturing materials for its intense thermal and flame-proof qualities. Despite its popular use in defense and aerospace projects, many manufacturers overlook this product in favor of Kevlar®, thus missing out on production opportunities with the other fiber. To highlight its quality and heat strength, let’s discuss what Nomex® is and how it compares in heat resistance to Kevlar®.
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What is Nomex®?
Nomex® is a brand of heat and flame-resistant textile made by DuPont™. Synthetically created in the early 1960s, Nomex® has long been marketed as a sure-fire protective material to assist various industries—ranging anywhere from aerospace engineering to fire-fighter defensive gear.
From industrial materials to fibrous linings, what makes Nomex® truly stand out is its high durability, made possible by its complex molecular structure. Similar in feeling to nylon, the versatility of Nomex® and its properties stands unmatched against other heat-resistant products within manufacturing. Yet, how does this material compare to an equally popular and durable polymer like Kevlar®? Let’s find out:
Nomex® vs. Kevlar®: Difference Explained
Much like Nomex®, Kevlar® is a popular heat-resistant synthetic fiber among industrial materials due to its high endurance to temperatures and versatile use in most military-grade products. Another product of DuPont, Kevlar® material holds a long-standing reputation for defense and durability, boasting a tensile strength around 3,620 megapascals (MPa) (525,000 psi) and density of 1.44 g/cm3 (0.052 lb./in3). In short, Kevlar® material has a higher strength than steel. The rigidity of this synthetic fiber makes it a popular choice among automotive and defense companies but is a particular favorite for military defense manufacturers in the production of high-grade tires, bulletproof vests, and other protective combat gear.
Typically, Kevlar® fibers can endure a wide range of temperatures: going as low as -320.8°F to as high as 500°F (-196°C to 260°C). Despite the advantages Kevlar® presents, the fiber is quite expensive, as the process to produce this material requires a specific concentrated sulfuric acid and that no salts or calcium contaminates the polymer during synthesis. Outside of price, though, Kevlar® presents itself as a high-grade, quality material to manufacture reliable parts across several heavy machinery industries.
Though similar to Kevlar® for its high endurance to temperatures, Nomex® holds a specific advantage for its uses in different industries. While other synthetic fibers only offer heat resistance, Nomex® can endure both intense heat and direct flame without breaking down! If put under a flame it will ignite; however, unlike materials (even Kevlar®), once removed from the heat source Nomex® doesn’t continue to burn. This is enabled by the fiber’s thick, woven structure, which creates a non-conductive environment to prevent flames from catching on the material or the risk of warping damage due to intense heat. Furthermore, Nomex® has no risk of melting or dripping down despite being a polymer material, making the fibers last even through the most intense heat of 698°F (370°C).
Although it lacks the high-quality strength of Kevlar®, Nomex® remains a contender on the manufacturing market for its tensile strength of 340 MPa. If that wasn’t enough, unlike Kevlar®, this fiber has a range of heat endurance areas, covering thermal, chemical, and radiation heat to service many industrial fields that Kevlar® simply can’t withstand. As a result, Nomex® offers opportunities to improve and develop high-durability parts for many more heavy machinery manufacturers and other industries than Kevlar® ever could.
Using Nomex®, defensive manufacturers create protective shields and gear for soldiers and firefighters.
Benefits of Nomex®
While it’s clear that between Nomex® and Kevlar®, the former offers more uses across different industries, it’s important to understand what Nomex® manufactured parts do to innovate each industry. Here are some of the industries that benefit from Nomex® parts:
Automotive: Often used in racing, Nomex® serves the automotive industry by creating tires which not only withstand balding during hard breaks and turns, but also deter heat from potentially blowing out the wheel during a high-octane speed race.
Electrical: Electrical engineering requires workers to secure wires and cables to power facilities. Improperly protected wires can create sparks, potentially electrocuting engineers or damaging other equipment. With Nomex®, electrical wires are insulated in non-conductive fibers, thereby ensuring workers’ safety without reducing energy output.
Aerospace: From lining ground vehicles to insulating pilot cockpits, the reliable heat and flame protection Nomex® provides has drawn the attention of defense manufacturers, particularly those working on aerospace technologies in NASA. Notable projects which have used Nomex® manufactured material include:
- The Space Suit Assembly Extravehicular Mobility Unit (SSA EMU)—the spacesuit and primary life support system astronauts wear to perform spacewalks on the International Space Station—to protect astronauts from fire and extreme environmental conditions.
- Thermal blankets on station payload bay doors
- Upper Wing Surfaces on the Space Shuttle Orbiter.
- Airbags for the Mars Pathfinder and Exploration Rover missions
Create Nomex® Components with Breiner Innovative
While there are many more projects Nomex® has been a part of, it’s clear that Nomex® offers a wide range of utility, protection, and innovative development as a manufacturing material. When put under the heat and pressure to succeed, engineers can count on Nomex® components to exceed expectations. Interested in using parts made from Nomex® or comparable materials? Contact us at Breiner Innovative to find the right materials and the expertise needed to complete your project today!