(Montreal) Article by Marc Tison published in La Presse Affaires on June 21, 2010.
Reminder: "13 000 officers deployed in 2007 at the G8 summit in Germany: 433 injured."
This statistic figures on the advertising leaflet of the new R4-E protective equipment for crowd management and correctional services, from the Canadian manufacturer Mawashi Protective Clothing Inc.
At Toronto and Muskoka, in a few days, several police officers will wear the R4-E, put in production during the winter.
It is the first product to meet the new CSA Z617 standard, that redefined the impact attenuation criteria for blunt trauma personal protective equipment, indicates the president of Mawashi, Alain Bujold, specialist in ergonomics.
Here is the selling argument of the company from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu: The R4-E protects against projectiles, blows and knives, without interfering with movement.
This is exactly the dilemma of the fourteenth century plate armor, that had to balance protection, weight and mobility.
To reach this objective, Mawashi found inspiration in two distant domains: lobsters and sumo wrestlers.
Protection first. "We found inspiration in the scorpion and lobster tails, that are mobile but have at the same time a shell that protects them", describes Alain Bujold, also expert in Biomimicry.
The exoskeleton of these arthropods is made of overlapping and articulated plates. The same principle applies to Mawashi's protective equipment, of which the industrial designer Marie-Pier Laguë has sketched the first drafts on detailed anatomic drawings.
The chest protector has five contoured plates. In order to shape them, the designers made plaster moldings of different torso sizes with several men and women.
These chest plates and the dorsal plate are stab and slash resistant, and they are molded in a kevlar and fiberglass composite polymer. They are covered on their inner face with a resilient foam, and wrapped in flame resistant textile covers. The arms and legs are also protected by thermoformed plastic plates.
"One of our great challenges was the joints and articulations, notes the industrial designer Jean-Marc Sheitoyan. They are very difficult to protect because of their high mobility. The knee of the R4-E, for example, has multiple protective layers like the lobster tail, but leaves no gap not protected."
Load management, now. Alain Bujold resumed the results of a study he conducted on human load carriage. His premise was as follows: the very obese people are carrying an overweight of 200 or 300 pounds, distributed at best by nature. «In our study, we have seen athlete sumos of 500 or 600 pounds, he describes. Because fat was sustained with more muscles, it tossed less and they were able to move better than other people of the same weight. "On these principles, the designers have developed a harness, worn around the torso and resting on the hips, which stabilizes the load and supports the articulated protective plates.
"The plates that protect the chest and the dorsal plate are the heaviest, describes Jean-Marc Sheitoyan. With the harness, this load is well distributed on the musculoskeletal system. We feel less load. The police officers find the equipment comfortable and they are able to move."
The complete equipment weighs about twenty pounds, four more than the previous model. "But the police tell us that we have lightened it!" rejoices Alain Bujold.
Another factor was left to consider. "For the police officer, there will be 1% of events like the G8 and G20, and 99% of quieter moments, underlines the president. But as soon as he gets dressed, he runs the risk of heat stroke. "With breathable nets and spaces between the plates and the body, the designers favored a passive aeration by cheminee effect.
The R4-E is being evaluated for the Annual User-Centered Product Design Award contest. But, of course, it is always usage that constitutes the real test.
Only four days before the G8 summit.
> View the original article on the La Presse Affaires website