New Zealand Wool Vests

New Zealand’s innovative wool research company, Canesis Network Ltd, has found yet another use for wool. This time, it’s spun the ubiquitous New Zealand fibre into a vest that can ward off vicious attacks.

According to The Network, Canesis’s newsletter, the vest was made after staff at an Australian prison had been stabbed one time too many by inmates using sharpened toothbrushes. “The brief to Canesis was to design a prototype low-cost vest that would resist the impact of a sharp object,” the newsletter says.

The company set about developing a prototype fabric that combined the comfort of wool fibres with the tensile strength of a high performance filament. As yet, Canesis can’t reveal much beyond what is in the newsletter but it has said that the company has so far combined high performance fibres, with specific fabric tailoring and garment design, to make “a comfortable, warm and technically enhanced garment that offers protection to key body areas from stab and puncture attack.”

The puncture-resistant vest could be worn either as an under garment or it could be styled for outer wear, the newsletter says The fabric uses a relatively low-production cost and high-volume manufacturing process that Canesis has developed for one of its key partners, Australian Wool Innovation Ltd.

Canesis are now carrying out an evaluation of the protective vest’s potential, which the company suggests could be myriad. “In an increasingly dangerous world, a garment such as this, which can be worn close to the skin, should have a ready market,” says the newsletter.

The prototype protective vest has potential applications for the prison service, police, the military forces and extreme crowd control, to name but a few, the newsletter said. Serious assaults on police involving weapons have risen by almost half in the past five years to nearly one a week, but according to local media reports, the newsletter notes, New Zealand police officers are paying out of their own pockets up to NZ$5,000 for light body armour. A product of the type developed by Canesis could provide a cheap, light-weight alternative, the newsletter suggests.

Canesis, which evolved from the former Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand, has already scored several high profile successes with its innovative textiles.

It produced a jacket with controls for a mini-disk player incorporated in its sleeve a couple of years ago. This Christmas the first of its heated textiles should be on the market in the Northern Hemisphere in the form of heated socks

Waiting in the wings are heated woollen blankets, which would incorporate the same technology as the socks, heating without wires to enable portability not now possible with electric blankets.

For these Kiwi textile innovators there is no end to the potential for truly intelligent textiles: also being developed by Canesis researchers are carpets that can change colours, and fabrics that glow when you apply an electric charge to them.

Canesis is also working on developing textiles that respond to the environment so that when it was cold the fabric would become thicker to provide more insulation or become more porous and more open to provide ventilation on a hot day.

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