Lightweight high-performance fibre is latest PPE innovation
PBI reports on its continued commitment to innovation in new product research and development which is setting new standards in firefighter protection around the world as more fire and rescue services than ever choose the company’s high performance fabrics to protect their firefighters in a wide range of frontline operations
The company has now created another milestone in firefighter protection with the launch of its lightest ever new fibre that improves comfort, breathability and freedom of movement for structural firefighting gear.
PBI’s specialist research and development team has created PBI LPTM – a unique new fibre for significantly lighter outer fabrics that will maintain heat and flame protection and resistance to break open, without compromise.
Fabric made with PBI LPTM, which stands for ‘lightweight performance’, is ten per cent lighter than other outer fabrics for structural fire gear, helping to reduce the risk of heat stress.
The new lighter fibre performs incredibly well when used in outer shell fabrics, even when tested against other heavier para-aramid and meta-aramid products. In the Dynamic Flame Test, used to demonstrate the time it takes for an outer fabric to break down, PBI LPTM of 180g/m2 lasted 48 seconds, while a much heavier 225/ g/m2 para-aramid/meta-aramid fabric lasted just three seconds.
Like all PBI fabrics, PBI LP™ delivers excellent tensile strength and will not become brittle, shrink or break open when exposed to flame and high temperatures. This means that the integrity of the internal layers of the garment is protected and the transfer of any radiant heat is slower, allowing more time for firefighters to escape to safety in a situation such as a flashover. PBI’s protection from exposure to heat and flame has been proven over many years of independent testing and performance in the field.
In the 32 years since opening for business in Charlotte, North Carolina, PBI Performance Products has created a legacy of protection that is recognised all over the world. Today, the company is a global force in personal protection in the Middle East, USA, Europe, Asia and Australasia, because its products do exactly what is promised.
The company has been at the forefront of incredible progress through innovation, creating fabrics that result in more flexible garments providing consistently high levels of protection for the wearer in a range of different challenging work environments.
“We continuously strive to create products that will meet all the specialist needs of firefighters and give them the peace of mind that their gear will protect them in the most extreme situations”
PBI LP™ fabric is a result of PBI’s continued investment in research and development that creates new standards of firefighter protection. That development process always has to take account of the balance between comfort and protection. That is why PBI LPTM joins a wide range of PBI fabrics that meet the need of every situation and work effectively as an integral part of all garment design. Each product has different properties and applications but every PBI fabric provides the required protection from heat and flame that an outer fabric must deliver.
The company’s outer fabrics, designed for structural firefighting, are renowned for the high levels of thermal protection, comfort and durability. The company has driven the development of an extensive range of structural firefighting outer fabrics designed specifically for the different needs of fire services. This includes PBI Gold, PBI Matrix, PBI Max, Gemini XTL, Titan 1260, ENFORCER 24K and Ibena X55 and Heathcoat’s Pure Concept with PBI.
Ian Callaghan, Senior Director of International Sales and Marketing at PBI, said: “We continuously strive to create products that will meet all the specialist needs of firefighters and give them the peace of mind that their gear will protect them in the most extreme situations.
“PBI has been at the forefront of performance fabric technology for over 30 years and PBI LPTM is the next progressive step in protecting firefighters from heat and flame, while at the same time reducing the risk of heat stress. We are working closely with a number of specialist fabric weavers to develop new PBI LPTM products that will be available in the very near future.”
One of the biggest challenges to firefighter safety is the risk posed by heat stress. It can cause many problems, from muscle fatigue and reduced cognitive function to cardiovascular strain and cardiac arrest. Research has shown that more firefighters die in the line of duty from cardiac arrest than any other cause. It is a paradox of firefighter protection that structural firefighting garments designed to protect the wearer from heat and flame can potentially contribute to the rise in core body temperature that triggers heat stress. That is why it is so important that the outer fabric, which has a primary role of protecting from heat and flame, is designed to mitigate the risk of heat stress.
PBI fabrics are designed to offer maximum thermal protection from the outside, while at the same time delivering high levels of breathability and comfort to reduce the risk of heat stress. They are inherently flame resistant and this will not diminish over time, despite hard wear and washing. Because they will not become brittle, shrink or break open when exposed to flame and high temperatures, which is among the characteristics of other fabrics, the integrity of the internal layers of the garment is protected and the transfer of any radiant heat is slower, allowing more time for firefighters to escape to safety in a situation such as a flashover.
Choosing to work with only the best fabric manufacturers in the supply chain ensures that every PBI product performs to the highest levels required in modern firefighting and rescue. The company’s close working relationship with its supply chains is a key factor in the continued investment in research and innovation which results in products that set new standards in comfort and performance.
Ian Callaghan added: “Our relentless drive to continue to develop and improve protection for those who work in challenging environments is underwritten by our unique partnership approach, which extends throughout the supply chain to the end user who wears our product on the frontline.
“Whether in the intensity of structural firefighting or the rigours of wildland, technical rescue and industrial environments, PBI fabrics are the first line of defence for the wearer and must consistently deliver high standards of performance without fail. All of us at PBI are aware of our responsibility to understand every aspect of our customers’ need so that we can continue to keep them safe in their work.”
Sustainability is a key priority for the company and it is incorporated across all of the company’s operations. The business continuously strives to improve its facility process models and organisational policies to ensure that it is doing its absolute best for the environment. PBI has received recognition in its effort with an award for Excellence in Corporate Responsibility from the South Carolina Manufacturing Alliance. As part of the programme the company has established long-term contracts with all of its raw materials suppliers to maintain quality specifications and facility inspections where needed.
Firefighters who wear PBI can do their job with the confidence and peace of mind that their PPE has been tested and proven to offer the highest levels of protection.