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Boron carbide ceramic armor is the strongest and lightest of all ceramic materials. It is often used in body armor and other applications. The material is chemically inert and has very high specific strength.
It was first introduced into bulletproof vests in the 1960s. Today, the material is also used in aircraft, boats, and land vehicles. However, it is not a material that can be mass-produced.
There are several players in the ceramic armor market, including ArmorWorks Holdings Inc., CeramTec GmbH, and Koninklijke DSM N.V. These companies all produce high-quality products. But they differ in their strengths.
Compared to pure boron carbide, calcium hexaboride ceramic armor has slightly lower density, but is slightly lighter. In ballistic tests, the composite material appears to outperform pure boron carbide.
Boron carbide ceramic armor is generally provided in rectangular tiles. Typically, they have a thickness of about 1/4 to 1/2 inches. Normally, the tiles are supplied in a rectangular shape with 8 to 18 inches of space on each side of the tile.
The tiles are usually manufactured by forming a precompacted billet and sintering it in a hot press process. After the boron carbide is cooled, it becomes extremely hard. This allows for easier drilling of holes.
Some companies also make non-sintering plugs. Non-sintering plugs can be configured according to composition, or they can be coated. Both of these methods have similar compaction characteristics as the boron carbide billet.
One of the newer players in the ceramic armor market is SINTX Armor. They plan to make a special composite of boron carbide and silicon carbide. Specifically, they will target law enforcement and civilian armor markets.