Alpex Protection is a medium-sized manufacturing company located in Saint-Chamond, in the Loire Department, south-east France. Alpex is a specialist in technical textiles, with a dedicated range of waterproof and breathable fabrics for protective gear. It currently employs 45 people and has a yearly turnover of about 20m US$.
Why a new range of laminates?
Several surveys conducted within the firefighter population showed that regular exposure to smoke and particles increased the risk of cancers and of respiratory diseases. The addition of Nomex Nano Flex to a firefighter hood composite structure provides improved particle-barrier protection in the neckline and upper jaw area that historically are known to be the most vulnerable and least protected.
A specific range of Nomex Nano Flex laminates was thus developed and aims to enhance protection without compromising with comfort.
What are the Nomex Nano Flex laminates?
These are technical textiles made of three layers: an outer shell, with very high thermal, flame and heat resistance performance, mostly containing Nomex fibres; a middle layer, core of the innovation, that could be described as a very thin microporous membrane, made of nano-fibres – thanks to its extremely low density and its very high elongation, this membrane does not interfere with wearing comfort; and a third layer, also with thermal properties, enhancing moisture transfer.
This optimized composite structure is soft, light, very comfortable (stretch) and highly durable (tested up to 100 washes). It is up to 50 times more breathable than the usual membranes, while it achieves more than 99% filtration efficiency using the usual test methods (particles, fine particles, virus of bacteria).
The specifically developed bonding technology prevents the composite from generating any rubbing or crackling noises, therefore not affecting situation awareness, a key safety parameter for firefighters.
Who is using particle-blocking hoods made with Nomex Nano Flex laminates?
After several years of development, Nomex Nano Flex laminates were introduced in 2019–20. The most famous fire brigades worldwide are currently running tests or have already switched to this highly innovative material.
An investment for immediate and long-term safety
Long development periods, heavy testing programmes as well as significant manufacturing investments are compulsory to achieve such an innovative step, offering very high protection without compromising comfort.
The tested durability of these technical textiles is a key argument when considering such hoods as an investment for safety, immediate and long term, rather than the traditional expense for personal protective equipment.
The range of Nomex Nano Flex laminates is already large, enabling everyone to find the right hood to match their budget.
More info on Nomex Nano Flex Laminates:
Feel free to view our YouTube video, highlighting the difference of breathability/air permeability between a Nomex Nano Flex laminates and a traditional particle-blocking barrier (in this case a PTFE membrane): www.youtube.com/watch?v=sd62DvC1W3w
Here is a 3D video, describing in 45’ the construction and specific properties of that innovative range of materials: youtu.be/N3m6mbT6f2Q