Timeline Factors

Design & Prototyping

Gift of Stephanie Kwolek. Courtesy DuPont.

Originally, Stephanie Kwolek was the only female on the team that helped create Kevlar. Her colleagues included Herbert Blades, Paul W. Morgan, and Joseph L. Rivers Jr. (Chemical Heritage Foundation, 2015)  As the production of the Kevlar family of synthetic fibers took many, many years there were many team members involved. The very first test conducted on the fabric, however, was done by a male colleague who originally refused to run the necessary test as he believed his equipment might be damaged in the process. “Kwolek was careful to take credit for only the initial discovery of the technology that led to the development of Kevlar and credited the work of others involved in the efforts.” (Westfahl, 2015)

Manufacturing & Production

Employed by DuPont at the time of discovery, Kwolek was stationed at the DuPont Experimental Station in Wilmington, Delaware. (Westfahl, 2015) At the time, the workers at DuPont were primarily male. Working conditions were, as they remain, very modern, as DuPont has been a leader in chemical engineering for several decades. Materials used to create Kevlar include a spinneret, heat testing equipment, an obscene amount of beakers and other chemistry glassware, protective googles and gloves, etc.

Marketing

Originally intended to strengthen tires, Kevlar and its family of fibers was targeted to any consumer with a vehicle. Later, as the uses for Kevlar grew exponentially, it was marketed to architecture companies, construction companies, city planning divisions, police departments, and the U.S. military. Arguably, as many of these entities employed more males than female, the pitches for the products made from Kevlar were invariably masculine-themed, but none of my sources can confirm this.

Sales

Kevlar is sold exclusively through DuPont, though there are knock-off brands available outside of the original patent. As Kevlar is a fiber integrated into many products, a consumer may purchase it in anything from a bullet-proof vest to a tire or a phone case to a surfboard.

User Support/Maintenance

All inquiries about the uses and maintenance needed for Kevlar products can be fielded through DuPont or the provider of the actual product (as Kevlar is only a small portion of the entirety of the construction of any given product it is integrated with). Maintenance requirements vary by product: a tire made with Kevlar fiber may need to be replaced entirely (as is the nature of some tire malfunctions) whereas a Kevlar vest will always need to be replaced after use (“use” defined as “receiving a high-impact blow”).

Recycling & Disposal

Kevlar is 100% recyclable! Where to recycle “varies depending on where you live and what programs you have access to. If you’re in the military you can generally recycle your Kevlar items through their programs, if you live in a large city with a recycling centre make sure to call them and ask them if they accept Kevlar.” (Michelle, 2013)

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