Ongoing innovation at Van Dyck Floors and Mathe Group’s truck tyre recycling plant in Hammarsdale has delivered another new product made from recycled rubber crumb – large rubber blocks that can safely stop bullets in indoor shooting ranges!
Dr Mehran Zarrebini, head of Van Dyck Floors and Mathe Group, says that this latest innovation was the result of an enquiry from Zaheer Boomgard of Springfield Arms who was looking for thick rubber sheeting that could be manufactured from recycled rubber for installation in a rooftop indoor training facility and shooting range.
The end result was not a rubber sheet but even more effective rubber blocks measuring 50cm x 25cm x 50mm (thickness). These can be assembled to effectively create a ballistic safety wall.
“The weight of each block is approximately six to seven kilograms. The blocks are manufactured with a “Lego” type configuration so that they can be easily stacked to create a wall or arranged in layers so that their thickness can be built up in layers of 50mm. The “Lego” type effect ensures that the wall remains rigid. The blocks can also be removed with ease and even reconfigured to meet different needs,” he explains.
Boomgard, who has over 15 years’ experience in body guarding and close protection in South Africa, India, Dubai and England and is both a corporate security advisor and a partner at Springfield Arms which provides self-defence, mixed martial arts and firearms training, said he was looking for a rubberised product that could minimise the velocity of a bullet.
The steel and sand bags that were conventionally used in the construction of shooting ranges were too heavy and cumbersome for use in an internal shooting range.
Initially sceptical about whether or not such a light block would stop a bullet, Boomgard tested this product extensively, starting with a 44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in South Africa. It did the job.
“So we went further and used high calibre rifles and armour piercing rounds and, believe it or not, these blocks stopped them too,” he says.
The ballistic blocks are manufactured at Mathe’s sister company, Van Dyck Flooring, in Prospecton, Durban. The vulcanised process uses high pressure and an environmentally friendly binder to create superior bullet encapsulation. The effect of this process creates a “self-healing” and tear resistant ballistic block which does not show the effect of bullet entry.
The blocks provide anti-ricochet and shrapnel protection in confined areas. Advantages include superior bullet encapsulation, the prevention of lead dust emissions as bullets remain encapsulated in the rubber as well as the prevention of bullet “skip” on hard surfaces.
Unlike conventional materials used to stop bullets, the “Lego” wall prevents bullets from passing through common seams in walls and corners.
It is also easy to install - simply position and “press" - requires little or no maintenance, is long lasting, environmentally friendly and has a smooth uniform texture that has a precision look. Individual blocks can be replaced when necessary rather than an entire installation, making this a far more cost effective option.
Van Dyck Floors and Springfield Arms are now in the process of fine tuning these new ballistic products for sale to similar facilities across South Africa as well as for use by military, law enforcement and security companies and for export.
According to Zarrebini, these ballistic blocks can also be used for blast wave ression systems, infrastructure protection systems, 360-degree live fire protection in shoot houses and combat villages and vehicle protection systems.
“I believe that the new concept range that they have established at Springfield Arms is one of a kind in South Africa. The use of these ballistic blocks will be a success for them and other ranges around South Africa,” he says.
Rubber crumb produced from one recycled truck tyre will make up to 10 ballistic blocks.
Mathe Group will repurpose at least 200 000 used radial truck tyres this year alone.
Up until a few years ago, tons of used tyres were building up into a potential environmental disaster in South Africa. They were either dumped and posed a health hazard or burnt, releasing noxious fumes into the atmosphere. Initially, not many products could be made from the recycled rubber. However, ongoing research and development at Van Dyck Floors has resulted in a number of new applications including rubber flooring and paving and acoustic underlays for soft and hard flooring. Rubber crumb is also used as infill for sports fields utilising artificial grass, the surfaces of athletics tracks and equestrian facilities.