Advanced Protective Barrier Fabric: Guarding Against Fire, Flash, Chemical, and Biological Threats

Laminating Metalized Film with Flame Retardant Nonwoven for Innovative Protection


In environments where fire, flash, chemical, and biological hazards are prevalent, the need for advanced protective fabrics is paramount. They are commonly used in applications where protection against fire and heat is critical, such as firefighting gear, industrial workwear, and military uniforms. Manufacturers of FR laminate fabrics must adhere to strict quality control and testing procedures to ensure the reliability and safety of their products in hazardous environments. This case study delves into the development of a revolutionary nonwoven protective barrier fabric, detailing the challenges faced, the innovative solutions employed, and the exceptional benefits and results achieved.

The Challenge

The challenge presented was multifaceted: to laminate a metalized film with a 250 gsm layer of fire retardant (FR) coating to a flame-retardant (FR) nonwoven. The objective was to maintain the flame-retardant and barrier properties of the composite while ensuring that tear and tensile performance of the original nonwoven and the resulting composite fabric remained uncompromised. The finished composite had to not only pass a stringent vertical flame test but also withstand exposure to flash fires and chemical challenges, in addition to meeting a desirable hand and drape.

Innovative Approach

The standard method of adhesive laminating these types of materials would be direct gravure adhesive printing, which involves the use of an engraved cylinder, known as a gravure roll, as the printing plate for laying down the adhesive. The gravure roll has tiny cells or wells engraved on its surface that carry the adhesive. This method is preferred for exacting details in the adhesive laydown, but may not be able to deliver the uniformity, speed and volume of adhesive required for the materials in this project. Shawmut’s technical team ingeniously modified the standard lamination method of direct gravure adhesive printing to a roll coating methodology. This strategic shift allowed for the deposition of high adhesive laydowns with a uniform and consistent level of flame-retardant coating compound. Crucially, this adjustment minimized the impact on the hand and drape of the resulting composite while preserving FR and critical barrier properties.

The roll coating methodology proved to be a pivotal element in achieving the delicate balance required for this protective barrier fabric. By utilizing this technique, Shawmut ensured that the flame-retardant coating compound was evenly distributed across the entire surface, maintaining the integrity of the composite and avoiding any compromise to its crucial protective attributes.

Results and Impact

The benefits derived from this innovative solution are extensive and address the core challenges of creating protective fabrics for demanding environments. The key advantages include:

  1. Uncompromised Flame Retardancy: The modified lamination method preserves the flame-retardant properties of the composite, ensuring reliable protection against fire and flash hazards.
  2. Robust Barrier Performance: The protective barrier fabric maintains its critical barrier properties, offering a reliable defense against chemical and biological threats.
  3. Enhanced Tear and Tensile Performance: Despite the addition of a metalized film and fire-retardant coating, the composite retains its tear and tensile strength, crucial for durability and longevity in challenging conditions.
  4. Versatile Hand and Drape: The roll coating methodology minimally impacts the hand and drape of the resulting composite, allowing for flexibility and comfort in wearable applications.

The implementation of the innovative solution resulted in outstanding achievements, proving the efficacy of Shawmut’s modified lamination method. The protective barrier fabric successfully met and surpassed the stringent requirements set for its performance:

  1. Vertical Flame Test Compliance: The finished composite passed the vertical flame test, showcasing its resilience in the face of direct flame exposure.
  2. Flash Fire Resistance: The protective barrier fabric demonstrated exceptional resistance to flash fires, making it a dependable choice for environments with sudden and intense fire hazards.
  3. Chemical Challenge Endurance: The composite withstood exposure to chemical challenges, maintaining its integrity and protective capabilities in the presence of hazardous substances.


In conclusion, Shawmut’s transformation of protective textiles to create a revolutionary protective barrier fabric exemplifies the power of innovation in meeting and overcoming complex challenges. By modifying the lamination method and implementing a roll coating methodology, Shawmut successfully developed a composite nonwoven fabric that provides uncompromised flame retardancy, robust barrier performance, and enhanced tear and tensile performance.

Shawmut’s commitment to enhancing safety and performance is exemplified through this innovative transformation of protective textiles.

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Project Details


Protective barrier fabric with continuous coating of flame-retardant compound for fire, flash/chemical and biological protection

Capabilities Applied/Processes:

  • Continuous, 100% coverage roll coating
  • Adhesive laydowns

Industry for Use:


Materials Used:

  • Multi-layer barrier film
  • Fire retardant (FR) nonwoven material
  • Adhesive
  • Fire retardant coating
  • Ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH)
  • Polyvinylidene chloride (PVDC)

Equipment Used:

  • Hot Melt Rotogravure with Roll Coating Setup
  • Nordson Drum Unloader

In Process Testing/Inspection Performed:

  • Vertical burn
  • Tensile
  • Tear


Continuous Rolls

Standards Met:

  • Vertical burn test
  • Tear test
  • Tensile test

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