Greg Latshaw, AP Member Exchange
POCOMOKE CITY, Md. (AP) — Company CEOs draw their inspiration differently, and for George Tunis of Hardwire LLC in Pocomoke City, Md., it's a jagged piece of metal shrapnel that moves him.
"We keep that around because it helps remind us what those guys are faced with," said Tunis, the company founder, who keeps the black fragment to recall the damage improvised explosive devices can do.
Founded in 2002, Hardwire is primarily an armor builder, making lightweight, bomb-resistant armor for uses in everything from military vehicles to roofing on Green Zone buildings. From the leftover materials, Hardwire has been making bulletproof clipboards and donating them to law enforcement agencies on the Delmarva Peninsula.
Hardwire also makes armor to protect American bridges from terrorist attacks and ultra-strong fabrics that strengthen the structural integrity of buildings. The steel fabrics are especially popular for very old buildings and structures in earthquake-prone zones. Hardwire has now teamed up with Humvee maker AM General to make "chimney" upgrades to the vehicles. The design vents the blast from bombs detonated under the Humvee upward, through the center of the vehicle and past the crew inside.
"Our job is to try to stay ahead of the enemy," Tunis said.
The secret of Hardwire's armor is the strength of its material: a type of fiber called Dyneema.
Tunis said Dyneema fibers are stronger than spider silk, two and a half times stronger than Kevlar and so light that they float. Hardwire gets Dyneema by the roll and presses it with two machines that exert up to 25 million pounds of force, strengthening its properties, he said.
DSM, a chemical company based in the Netherlands, makes Dyneema at a plant in Greenville, N.C.
The company has donated hundreds of clipboards made from the leftovers of the war zone armor material to law enforcement agencies across the Lower Shore.
Firearm experts with local police agencies have tested the clipboards at firing ranges, with one clipboard shot by different handguns, and a 12-gauge shotgun. The clipboard crumpled but did not break.
"After watching this take five separate rounds, and none of them penetrating, going anywhere from a 9-millimeter to one of the strongest handguns in the world, a .44 Magnum, without penetration, I'm extremely impressed," said Ocean City, Md., Lt. Todd Richardson.
Wicomico Sheriff Mike Lewis said his office received 100 clipboards, enough to cover every single deputy.
"It adds an extra level of protection. Many police are gunned down on traffic stops. They have no protection other than maybe some body armor for their chest," Lewis said.
The company employs 54 people in a facility at a site where a former Campbell's Soup factory once stood.
Tunis said the location is helpful, as it is a half-day's drive to the Pentagon or to Aberdeen Proving Ground to have products blown up.