Oct. 6 (Bloomberg) -- DuPont Co., the inventor of Kevlar used in body armor, said the opening of a $500 million U.S. plant today will allow for growth in other uses for the material, such as tires, auto parts and fiber-optic cables.
The Cooper River Kevlar plant near Charleston, South Carolina, will initially increase global Kevlar production by 25 percent and eventually boost output 40 percent above its current level, Wilmington, Delaware-based DuPont said today in a statement.
While Kevlar is best known as a critical element in bulletproof vests and helmets, ballistics account for less than a third of demand as U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq winds down, Thomas G. Powell, president of DuPont Protection Technologies, said in a telephone interview.
The expansion of production is mostly to serve other markets, such as the strengthening of fiber-optic cables, Powell said. Demand for Kevlar in that application is growing 10 percent a year in the U.S. and 15 percent in Asia, he said. Ballistics demand is growing 10 percent annually, he said.
Kevlar is used in tires to reduce weight and energy use, and in turbo-charged engines that require hoses and belts with improved strength and heat resistance, DuPont said.
DuPont is one of the two largest producers of para-aramid fibers, such as Kevlar, along with Japan’s Teijin Ltd., Powell said. DuPont invented Kevlar in 1965.
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