In 2012, Herbert Blades visited the DuPont Spruance Plant in Richmond, Va., one of the sites where DuPont™ Kevlar® is manufactured today.
Herbert Blades is a retired DuPont scientist who was instrumental in the commercialization of DuPont™ Kevlar®. He was awarded the prestigious DuPont Lavoisier Medal in 1991 for commercial fiber spinning processes, including air-gap and flash spinning. The Lavoisier Medal honors men and women throughout the history of DuPont whose extraordinary technical achievements have resulted in significant business impact and enduring scientific value.
Mr. Blades experimented on the spinning process for one year and was ultimately responsible for turning a laboratory curiosity into a successful, scalable process.
“Stephanie Kwolek was a skilled chemist and her discoveries began the journey that led to DuPont™ Kevlar®,” said Blades. “That’s where I came in; I asked questions about the process for making the fiber, which would have been so hopelessly expensive and complicated one has to marvel at the decision of the company to pursue it.”
But Blades, another icon for the Dare Bigger™ concept, was able to make a dramatic improvement and patented a new process that enabled the commercialization of DuPont™ Kevlar®.
Spinning was the critical step in mass production of Kevlar®. “There were many postulations and experiments before we could achieve the process that was ultimately successful,” said Blades. “A process where there was virtually no speed limitation on the spinning, no restrictions on the polymerization process that would make it unsuitable for spinning, and no cost constraints associated with the solvent.”
Without Mr. Blades’ curiosity and daring, Kevlar® would not be what it is today. His knowledge and tenacity, coupled with the freedom he was given to experiment in an industrial environment, enabled the commercialization of a product that is used by athletes, astronauts, law enforcement officers, soldiers, first responders and industrial workers.
The Dare Bigger™ brand platform represents inspiration for anyone who relies on the safety and performance of Kevlar®. The science behind this advanced material, coupled with its strength and durability, allows us to push boundaries, defy limits and challenge the conventional, much the way the scientists like Herbert Blades, who brought Kevlar® to the world, pushed boundaries, defied limits and challenged the conventional.