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about adept armor

About us

About us

Adept is a materials engineering and industrial design firm that focuses on the development of body armor and infantry equipment.

We only develop armor systems that we can be proud to put our name to. To that end, we have pioneered the use of titanium alloys, semi-amorphous silica-based materials, and doped boron carbide ceramics in modern armor plates.

These exotic materials are not used in ways that blithely follow convention. For, in addition to our expertise in materials engineering, we place extreme importance on product design. In this, we hew to a Parametricist philosophy, which often results in designs which are as novel and unexpected as they are effective.

We thoroughly understand the characteristics (and even the teleology) of the materials that we work with, we understand how body armor systems are tested and used, we believe we understand how they should be tested, and, on all of these points and many more, we are always willing to share what we know.

If you need armor with exceptional performance capabilities, if you represent an organization that requires something special and would like to discuss a new project, or if you’re merely interested in the subject of body armor and would like to learn more, you’ve come to the right place. Feel free to drop us a line.

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On Parametricism

Parametricism is a product design philosophy that emerged naturally from the iterative and algorithmic design paradigms enabled by computer assisted design software. It has several facets, one of which is the holistic integration of parts — but another, which is perhaps the most relevant to the design of armor systems and tactical gear, involves diverting, mutating and testing all conceivable design permutations in order to help reveal the optimal solution.

Thanks to modern modeling software, this is possible in the ballistic simulation realm: It is now fairly trivial to test dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of different material combinations against a particular threat or set of threats. This sort of iterative parametric process enables the rapid evolution of composite systems with multiple functional components; the process may be a “blind idiot God,” but it ruthlessly drives the development of composite systems that have been finely tuned for optimized performance. This parametric process cares nothing for convention; it will readily abandon “important” features or characteristics that are not critical to performance optimization.

Parametric design is also of relevance towards plate construction itself, in that it promotes the development of systems as such. It goes far beyond “take this ceramic, glue it to this chunk of polyethylene, and wrap it in nylon, just as everybody else does, and as has always been done” — instead, it mandates: “Do not only optimize for performance in the face of these parameters, but make sure that all functional components are tightly nested, exhibit surface continuity and aesthetic elegance, and ultimately integrate well as a system — and then ensure that this system is capable of seamless integration with others.”

The benefits of this philosophy should be manifestly obvious, and will be reflected in every product we release.

On Teleology

Every material has an intrinsic character. As any sculptor, bladesmith, or woodworker knows well, the nature of artistry lies in revealing and honing the intrinsic characteristics of the materials one works with — to lay bare and to honor its essential form.

We strive to do this with every material that we work with. Here, for illustrative purposes, it should be particularly interesting to contemplate the teleology of steel.

As mentioned previously, we work with any number of exotic ceramic materials, titanium alloys, and fiber composites, all of which we use extensively. Yet we also do a lot of work with steel, and many of the projects we currently have in development involve or utilize steel. We’re often asked why. “Why bother with steel R&D when, clearly, the industry’s focus is on advanced polymers such as UHMWPE?”

Typically, the response we give is technical. Namely, that steel’s potential as an armor material has not yet been realized. That there’s still tremendous room for improvement in armor steel alloys. That RHA, MIL-DTL-46100, and most of the alloys that have found their way into vehicular and body armor plates are not ideal, but, much to the contrary, are very far from ideal. That, in some cases, the alloys in common use are appallingly bad. (This is, in large part, because these grades of steel were developed for vehicular armor applications, and there are requirements that they be easily weldable, which places hard limits on how these grades of steel can be alloyed, which itself impacts — usually negatively — the balance of mechanical properties that these grades of steel can ultimately attain.) Not only are the alloys often bad, they’re frequently handled poorly and used in sub-optimal ways. There’s tremendous room for improvement.

Then, if we sense that the person we’re conversing with is attuned to such things, we may also respond with a different argument, this time from tradition: Going on more than two thousand years, steel has literally been synonymous with arms and armor, and when you hold in your hands a good piece of steel — whether it be a helmet, a blade, or a pistol — you hold what the Romans would call virtus, something representative of unchanging masculine virtues. For those who are receptive to said virtues, steel is totemic; it was, and still is, emblematic of the warrior, it has always been the most favored material of the gods of war, and one can derive strength and comfort from it. Perhaps your fathers have. What’s certain is that your ancestors have, or you wouldn’t be around to read this.

(Related to this point, the enduring mystique of the sword is, at least in part, due to its all-steel construction. This is true across cultures. Today, the sword is a talisman more than it is a weapon.)

Over time, this has seeped into language: To “steel yourself” is to shore up your courage or strengthen your resolve. Steel is, in this sense, synonymous with virtus, and steel in-hand (or on head) certainly helps to strengthen one’s resolve!

universe

But there’s also a third argument, and it goes to the heart of what we’re trying to convey here. This is the fact that steel has a very special destiny, which vastly heightens the quasi-religious significance it has in our eyes. Simply put, steel’s destiny is to outlast everything else, and eventually inherit the known universe.

For within roughly a hundred trillion (10¹⁴) years, the smallest and most efficient stars will exhaust their fuel and contract into cooler and more stable configurations which don’t burn hydrogen. Most of these will become white dwarfs. White dwarfs — many of which are comprised mostly of carbon — are extremely stable, but they’re not utterly stable and unchanging. Over time, though it may take hundreds of billions of years, they will cool to such an extent that they no longer emit any heat or light. These “black dwarfs” do not yet exist in our universe, which is a mere 13.7 billion (1.37*10¹⁰) years old, but to reside in a black dwarf is the ultimate fate of nearly all matter.

Large, less efficient stars will exhaust their stores of fuel well within 10¹³ years. Some of these will become white and then black dwarfs, but many others will become neutron stars or black holes. Black holes are famously unstable, as they evaporate via Hawking radiation. Small ones will evaporate relatively quickly — but even monsters with tremendous mass, like the black hole found at the galactic center of the Milky Way, will likely evaporate within 10¹⁰⁰ years.

Black dwarfs are much more stable than black holes, so they’re not going to disappear in the same way. And in black dwarfs, even at zero temperature, chemical and nuclear reactions will still take place. Over time — 10¹⁵⁰⁰ years, give or take a few quadrillion — all elements lighter than iron will combine to form iron, and all elements heavier than iron will decay to iron. Quantum effects, alpha emission, fusion, and fission — immutable laws which govern the behavior of particles and atoms — will see to it, for iron is the only stable element on that timescale. This transmutation will take a mind-bending length of time, but it is inevitable. (Though the accumulation of iron in black dwarf cores may make a few of them, in a narrow mass range, explode. This has been described as the “perhaps the last interesting astrophysical [event] to occur prior to heat death.” The final fireworks.)

Thus for an era so long that it shall make ours look like less than the blink of an eye, the universe will consist of little else but steel: Cold spheres of iron, shot through with carbon, nickel, and trace amounts of other elements, mostly metals. Iron, via steel, is ultimately the ground state of baryonic matter. On a long enough timescale, everything else is unstable.

We assume that proton decay will not happen, and that steel will thus inherit the entire universe. Call this an article of faith. (And a well-founded one, for, despite heroic efforts, proton decay has never been observed.)

Another article of faith we hold is that iron still has much to teach us.

In the present, steel is a fine material with tremendous untapped potential. This would be true even if it were unremarkable in every other respect.

Yet steel is remarkable in that it is also a link to the past, and particularly to the past of the fighting man. It is iconic in a frankly religious sense; this, too, would be true even if it were unremarkable in every other respect.

And steel is still more remarkable in that it is also a link to the far future, to deep time. The teleology of all things is to become iron.

When we work with steel, we contemplate this deeply, and we strive to honor the material. One way to honor a material such as steel is to pay careful attention to its heat treatment, its composition, and to its microstructure, to ensure that it has been optimized for its intended use.

Needless to say, steel isn’t the only material with a complex and interesting intrinsic character or teleology. The example given above is merely illustrative. Boron — an element which still holds many mysteries, and which is produced almost entirely by the spallation of larger elements from cosmic rays — is hardly less interesting, and boron carbide’s exquisitely sensitive and complex microstructure is practically a work of art in its own right. It is worthy of considerable appreciation on an aesthetic level. Which brings us to our ultimate point here:

Making armor is an art, and it is a science.  Both aspects of the craft should be attended to.
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