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DIY: aac's ESAPI plate set.

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Its been a while 
since is posted my last DIY projects (Mk12, LVOA, Socom RC, Mk18)
So i decided it was about time to make "something" by myself again.

Nowadays i am doing a bit more research on tactical apparel, and gear, and so i ended up with Plate Carriers and their correct wearing, and sizing.
And that starts with the correct size, and carrying of the ballistic plate itself.

I started a more in-dept research concerning,  Milspec ballistic inserts, the so called SAPI, or ESAPI ,  i compiled those results in the following info carts.
  • SAPI : Small Arms Protective Insert
  • ESAPI : Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert

     Correct placement of SAPI / ESAPI                                                Working of SAPI / ESAPI

Screen-Shot-2020-05-18-at-13.18.23-copy-600x600.jpg (204.8KiB)

   The common mil spec Ballistic plate cuts, and sizing's

SAPI.PNG (51.28KiB)

   Actual appearance of SAPI, ESAPI, and XSAPI 

comparison.png (1.67MiB)

After some measuring it appeared that my old, cheap Taiwangun SAPI plates, are size Medium, and i would be better of with a Size Small.
I also discovered that the common Airsoft dummy plates are al size Medium, most likely there wil exist more high end training plates in al sizes, and cuts  (if you wanna pay for it) 

But i already decided this would be an interesting DIY project !

I chose to start with the Ceradyne ESAPI as reference for my DIY dummy set of S size ESAPI, as wel as a set of 6x6" ESBI (Enhanced Side Ballistic insert) 
(Ceradyne ESAPI are most common nowadays) 

My reference photo's

Ceradyne ref - kopie.png (3.14MiB)

And my first working draft

Naamloos.png (9.63KiB)
But before i continue with the actual realization of my project, i want to mention my friend DROYSAS, a pro with lots of professional knowledge. 
And who besides has an endless amount of patience, and willingness to reply to my continuing stream of questions and information requests. 
Thanks D. 🙏

The Materials

PVC, and Steel plate
Became -In order of availability, and material characteristics- the material of choice .
PVC, plate in thickness of 15mm, and 6mm, the steel plate in 1mm ( to achieve the right 7/8" ESAPI thickness)
PVC is easy machinable, unsaleable, and thermoformable at 90°C (what easily can be achieved in a kitchen oven)

Since i wanted the plates had the real weight (2.05 kg for the ESAPI, and 0.75 kg for the ESBI) it was required to foresee a "correction area"
(The three plates together would weight about 250 grams to much according to my mass. calculations)  
I could easily remove the exces material in the middle 15mm plate, since it would be "sandwiches" by the 6mm PVC, and 1mm steel plate later.

The OD wrapping
 was bit of a PITA to find initialy, but finaly found some used OD kitbags in a nearby Army Dump Store, the perfect material finally


The project actually started to took form
 after i cutted, and CNC milled the contours of the plates, the 1mm steel plates where shaped under the plate roller, and the 2e (in vertical plane) bend, was done by hand.  


Here al the parts shaped, and together

The Shaping
of the plates was the next step, the 1mm steel plating seemed to be that rigid after the double  bending, that the could serve as ha mold to form the hot PVC plates !

After we heated the PVC parts for 10 min at 90°C in the kitchen oven, we just needed  to press them in the Steel shell, and cool them in cold water to set the shape.  

The bended, shaped parts
The Rough Trimming
Was the next step, to prepare the the plates for the proper weight (removing exces weight), the plates where temporary fixed with wood vises, and trimmed into shape with a very coarse file.

The Wrapping
Then needed to be cut into size, since it was required to determine the total right weight 


The "Weighting"
Could finally start now, with al the components brought into right size and volume, it appeared there was a 250 grams of exces material that needed to be removed, this was done with a 15mm wood dril, when the plate had at the right weight, it looked more as a sieve LOL. 


The Assembly
Of the plates was done with countersunk M2.5 screws, i took the screws that little because otherwise the chamfering in the steel plate would be to wide !


After a final weight check the plates where then definitely glued together with PVC adhesive


My Mandalorian colleague !

The Nylon wrapping
Was the next chapter, therefore i initially did some bond testing with various glue types
The PVC adhesive had almost no bonding, the super glue worked the best. 

Step 1 :
The large front surface Nylon to Steel) was glued with the contact adhesive.


Step 2: 
The side borders where also glued with contact glue, the corners where cutted in a specific way to achieve a nice fold, and seem.


Step 3:
The final end of the seem (Nylon to PVC) was done with super glue, since this gives the strongest bond, and with the wrapping fully stretched around the plate now, the final fixation.


Step 4:
Gluing the back nylon cover, with contact adhesive, and Super glue for the final 10mm seem


Step 5:
The finishing of a the corners and seems with super glue and a press-block and roller


The Final result
We are pretty satisfied with , it took more more time, and energy than i actually expected to be honest, but the result is very satisfying in the other hand
The plates look IMHO very realistic compared to my photo material, they feel heavy, rigid, and hard.




The Finishing touch
I would love to finish the plates, with the white markings, and Ceradyne stickering, same has the real ones,  but that's a challenge on its own.

The Stickering 
Wasn't a big issue, in fact, with MS Paint and printer they where made in a relative no-time.

The Text
Was more challenging, first i thought about transferpaper, but apparently is white text to dark fabric not easy doable ?  then there was the option of a professional printing service, but that would be pretty pricey €€€

So then we did a try out with a DIY made template, i printed the lettering printen onto thick photo paper,  and my Mandalorian colleague X-acto knifed them out !

But the it went terribly wrong, an IDIOT as i am, i tried it straight on the finished plate 😡 
Result : the spray paint was too thin, the nylon absorbed it allover, and ruined it into a complete mess. 
So i was ready to make & add a new back wrap.


Meanwhile i did some -more overthinked- tryouts with thicker tube paint, witch had a more promise full result

Edited by aac
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Wow.  These look very impressive indeed.  You have far more patience than me. I wonder if a Plasti Dip type spray paint might be better suited for the lettering.  I don't think it would bleed into the nylon.

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29 minutes ago, hitmanNo2 said:

Wow.  These look very impressive indeed.  You have far more patience than me. I wonder if a Plasti Dip type spray paint might be better suited for the lettering.  I don't think it would bleed into the nylon.

Tried it to yes, but the result wasn't also that superb, the only option know are custom made ironing letters, but thats a quite pricy to. I should have let the nylon print before the wrapping, but initially i never thought the end result would be that good.

After al, once there in the Plate Carrier nobody sees it anymore.




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Ah.  Shame.  What about vinyl transfer sheet?  The type people cut designs from and use a heat press to put onto t shirts?  That can't cost much I wouldn't thought.

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3 hours ago, hitmanNo2 said:

Ah.  Shame.  What about vinyl transfer sheet?  The type people cut designs from and use a heat press to put onto t shirts?  That can't cost much I wouldn't thought.

No indeed thats pretty cheap, tried it to, but it doesn't work either, dark text on a white surface is easy.

But if you wanna iron a White text on a dark surface you need to use the specific sheets, and they have a white background instead of transparant. 

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