Nomex, Carbon-X and Mechanix.

Nomex, Carbon-X and Mechanix.

Like the saying goes, “if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen.” We would simply say you’re wearing the wrong fire-resistant gloves.

Long before the invention of man made fire resistant materials there was water. And water was good. It didn’t catch fire but it did get hot and it was very difficult to make clothes out of it. So what to do? Well, some 4500 years ago the hearty souls living in Finland discovered a natural fiber that resisted burning. They made clay pots from it. The Greeks called it Asbestos and made the famous ever-lasting birthday candle. Now we know it causes cancer. Bad stuff. In the early 1960’s, DuPont® produced a new chemically manufactured material made from spun aramid fibers and named it Nomex®. In the ’65-’66 auto racing season the first fire resistant racing garment with Nomex® was used.  And for the next 35 years Nomex ruled the roost.

Terms for 200 please. Fireproof, flame retardant, fire resistant. Let’s get something straight; there is no such thing as forever fireproof. OK maybe Superman is fireproof but everything will burn when exposed to high enough temperatures and for a long enough time. When speaking about fabrics, and the claim that they are fireproof: man-made fibers can indicate this after being subject to the Vertical Flame Test and subsequent Federal Standard 191A, Method 5903 which proves the material to be, or not rated fireproof or free from flame for a certain amount of time. If the fiber is not inherently fireproof it must be labeled fire resistant from the get go. Flame retardant means the fabric resists flames or retards the spreading of a flame. A flame retardant material can be made from inherently retardant fibers or from a uniquely finished fabric.

Welcome to a new decade in fireproofing.

When Mechanix Wear needed a fire proof (FR) rated glove to protect the fuel guys going over the wall during a NASCAR® pit stop, no construction material was to be ruled out. First and foremost flame protection was addressed. Dexterity was an issue as many of the functions required during a 17 second flurry of pit stop activity called for the ability to pick up or handle intricate tools. The final piece to the FR construction puzzle was the ability to tailor the materials to produce a line of gloves for specific tasks, concerns and ratings.

It would have been easy to use NOMEX, everyone else does… and that’s why we didn’t. We wanted something better. Something lighter, something with more fire resistance and and something that protects to a greater degree. Stage entrance CarbonX®.  CarbonX starts life as a fiber called oxidized polyacrylonitrile, or O-PAN for short. The magic of this fiber lies in the processes to make it flame retardant. The O-PAN is exposed to a nearly 400˚ F degree heat and in a two-step process where the fibers are pre-charred. (The O-PAN by itself is not strong enough to be woven into a useable fabric alone so additional fibers are introduced in the manufacturing process.) Ballistic and additional oxidized fibers are then added to create a material that is able to withstand a 2000˚ F blowtorch flame 20 times longer than a comparable material. When our gloves are exposed to high heat, the woven CarbonX material chars again, from the outside in, and in the process, expands and smothers the oxygen needed to sustain fire. You want more? CarbonX retains it woven strength even after being exposed to the said flame and increasing temperature. In 480˚ F heat the CarboxX retains 100% of its strength. This means it will not melt or drip or leave you unprotected even during an arc flash or splash from a molten metal. Still not convinced… CarbonX has been tested and surpasses the Vertical Flame Test, Thermal Protective Performance Test (TPP), the Instrumented Test for ARC Flash and Certification from the SFI Foundation Inc. Mechanix Wear products featuring CarbonX are designed to give you the best chance to remove yourself from a dangerous situation with the least amount of harm.

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