Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Old Fashioned Safety: Line Handlers Standby

Pound-for-pound, ten times stronger than steel, more durable than polyester and with a specific strength 40 percent greater than aramid fiber. Able to leave tall buildings in a single bound, and low piers in a nuclear minute. Yes, we are speaking of Honeywell Spectra(R) Fiber line.

"The safety of sailors is the Navy's paramount concern," said Sim Whitehill, president of Whitehill Manufacturing Corp. "As a long-time partner of Honeywell, we knew that Spectra® fiber would be the ideal component in creating the new lines. Using Spectra®, we were able to make the ropes lighter, more durable and better suited for use in and around water. This helps streamline operations at the pier, while more securely mooring naval vessels." Can this be a benefit to our sub fleets?

In the past, injuries caused by breaking or recoiling ropes were of critical concern to the Navy. Traditional nylon or polyester lines tethering destroyers, aircraft carriers and other large ships were snapping under strain, injuring or killing sailors as they recoiled. To protect its crews, the Navy selected a custom-designed four-strand rope produced by Whitehill. This rope was engineered with one strand slightly shorter than the others, causing it to break first when the rope was about to fail, dissipating energy and alerting sailors to clear the premises.
Whitehill's new rope incorporates this short-strand technology with the strength of Spectra fiber. The new Spectra-based rope is 20 percent lighter than an aramid rope of equivalent strength. This enables a number of improvements, such as providing a stronger, lighter line that allows for single-part mooring rather than "doubling up"-going ship to shore twice in an effort to improve line strength-and allowing for a thicker jacket for an added layer of protection. In addition, unlike aramid ropes, Spectra® lines float in water.

Light enough to float, it also exhibits high resistance to chemicals, water, and ultraviolet light. It has excellent vibration damping, flex fatigue and internal fiber-friction characteristics, and Spectra® fiber’s low dielectric constant makes it virtually transparent to radar.Spectra® fiber is used in numerous high-performance applications, including police and military ballistic-resistant vests, helmets and armored vehicles, as well as sailcloth, fishing lines, marine cordage, lifting slings, and cut-resistant gloves and apparel.

Spectra® fiber is made from ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene that is used in a patented gel-spinning process. Polyethylene is a remarkably durable plastic, and scientists at Spectra Technologies have captured the tremendous natural strength in the molecular backbone of this everyday plastic to create one of the world’s strongest and lightest fibers. The gel-spinning process and subsequent drawing steps allow Spectra® fiber to have a much higher melting temperature (150°C or 300°F) than standard polyethylene.


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