Title:
Armour
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Armoured apparel is disclosed embodying a method of integrating the structure of armour with the structure of signal transmission means to enable that armour to be used as armoured protection for a wearer and for the signal transmission means and/or as a platform for conveying signals (e.g. for communication purposes or otherwise). Armoured apparel (1) is disclosed including armour means (5) arranged to shield a wearer of the apparel in use, and signal conduit means (8) is incorporated within the apparel for conveying signals therein, the signal conduit means being arranged such that the armour means shields both the signal conduit means and the wearer of the apparel in use.



Inventors:
Hunter, Andrew (Glasgow, GB)
Application Number:
11/571554
Publication Date:
10/25/2007
Filing Date:
07/01/2005
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
2/410
International Classes:
F41H1/02
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CLEMENT, MICHELLE RENEE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
HAUPTMAN HAM, LLP (ALEXANDRIA, VA, US)
Claims:
1. An armoured apparel comprising: armour means arranged to shield a wearer of the apparel in use, and signal conduit means incorporated within the armour means for conveying signals therein, the signal conduit means being arranged such that the armour means shields both the signal conduit means and the wearer of the apparel in use.

2. 2-73. (canceled)

74. The armoured apparel according to claim 1 in which the signal conduit means is arranged between portions of the armour means such that the armour means shields the signal conduit means at substantially opposite sides thereof simultaneously.

75. The armoured apparel according to claim 1 in which the armour means surrounds the signal conduit means thereby to shield substantially all parts of the signal conduit means simultaneously.

76. The armoured apparel according to claim 1 in which the signal conduit means is arranged between an inner portion of the armour means which is nearmost the wearer of the apparel in use, and an outer portion of the armour means more distant from the wearer of the apparel in use and simultaneously overlapping the inner portion of the armour means and the signal conduit means such that the armour means shields the signal conduit means at substantially opposite sides thereof simultaneously.

77. The armoured apparel according to claim 1 in which the armour means includes a plurality of overlapping adjacent armour portions forming a stack of armour portions within which the signal conduit means is incorporated so as to be located between and covered by overlapping armour portions of the stack.

78. The armoured apparel according to claim 77 in which each armour portion of the stack is a layer of armour which overlaps each other layer of the stack to form a laminate within which the signal conduit means is incorporated.

79. The armoured apparel according to claim 1 including passive circuit components and/or active circuit components within the armour operably connected to the signal conduit means therein.

80. The armoured apparel according to claim 1 including signal processor means within the armour arranged to process signals conveyed to it by the signal conduit means therein and to generate signals for output to the signal conduit means.

81. The armoured apparel according to claim 80 in which the signal processor means is operably connected to the signal conduit means.

82. The armoured apparel according to claim 1 in which the signal conduit means includes signal transfer means arranged within the armour to transfer signals between the signal conduit means within the armour and signal responsive means external or internal to the armour to permit the passage of signals therebetween.

83. The armoured apparel according to claim 82 in which the signal transfer means includes antenna means for wirelessly passing signals through the armour.

84. The armoured apparel according to claim 82 in which the signal transfer means includes connector means arranged to connect the signal conduit to signal a signal conduit external to the armour.

85. The armoured apparel according to claim 1 in which the signal conduit means incorporates electrically responsive signal transmission means.

86. The armoured apparel according to claim 1 in which the signal conduit means incorporates at least a part of an electrical circuit means.

87. The armoured apparel according to claim 1 in which the signal conduit means incorporates optical signal transmission means.

88. The armoured apparel according to claim 1 in which the signal conduit means is flexible.

89. The armoured apparel according to claim 88 in which the signal conduit means is flexed.

90. The armoured apparel according to claim 1 in which at least a part of the signal conduit is mounted upon a mounting means which itself forms at least a part of the armour of the apparel.

91. The armoured apparel according to claim 1 in which at least a part of the signal conduit is embedded within a mounting means which itself forms at least a part of the armour of the apparel.

92. The armoured apparel according to claim 88 in which the mounting means is a sheet having regions where passive and/or active circuit components are located, and relatively thinner regions where the signal conduit means is located.

93. The armoured apparel according to claim 88 in which the mounting means is a sheet of flexible electronic circuit board.

94. The armoured apparel according to claim 88 in which the mounting means is flexed.

95. The armoured apparel according to claim 1 in which at least a part of the signal conduit is enclosed within the armour of the apparel.

96. The armoured apparel according to claim 1 including electromagnetic (EM) shield means arranged within the armour thereof to shield at least a part of the signal conduit means therein from electromagnetic radiation external to the apparel.

97. The armoured apparel according to claim 96 in which the EM shield means is arranged to shield passive and/or active components and said signal processor means from electromagnetic radiation external to the apparel.

98. The armoured apparel according to claim 96 in which the EM shield means is arranged within the apparel to such that the items to be shielded thereby are located between the EM shield and the wearer of the apparel.

99. The armoured apparel according to claim 96 in which the EM shield means encloses the items it is arranged to shield.

100. The armoured apparel according to claim 1 including moisture barrier means arranged within the armour thereof around the signal conduit means to form a barrier to moisture.

101. The armoured apparel according to claim 100 in which the moisture barrier means is also the EM shield means.

102. The armoured apparel according to any of claims 100 including moisture responsive means arranged to provide a detectable response to the presence of moisture within the moisture barrier means.

103. The armoured apparel according to claim 102 in which the moisture responsive means is a humidity detector means arranged to monitor humidity within the moisture barrier means and to generate a detectable signal when the monitored humidity level exceeds a predetermined threshold.

104. The armoured apparel according to claim 1 in which some or all of the armour is The armoured apparel according to claim 1 in which some or all of the armour is rigid.

106. The armoured apparel according to claim 1 in which the apparel is arranged to be worn about the body of the wearer.

107. The armoured apparel according to claim 1 in which the apparel is arranged to be worn about the head of the wearer.

108. The armoured apparel according to claim 1 in which the armour is ballistic armour.

109. A method of manufacturing an item of armoured apparel for shielding a wearer of the apparel in use including providing an item of wearable armour and an item of apparel, comprising the steps of: (a) incorporating a signal conduit means within the item of wearable armour for conveying signals therein; (b) arranging the item of wearable armour in the item of apparel; wherein the signal conduit means is arranged such that the wearable armour shields both the signal conduit means and the wearer of the apparel in use.

110. The method according to claim 109 including arranging the signal conduit means to be between portions of the wearable armour such that the armour shields the signal conduit means at substantially opposite sides thereof simultaneously.

111. The method according to claim 109 including arranging the signal conduit means to be surrounded by the wearable armour such that the armour shields substantially all parts of simultaneously.

112. The method according to claim 109 in which step (b) includes providing an inner portion of wearable armour which is nearmost the wearer of the apparel in use, and an outer portion of wearable armour more distant from the wearer of the apparel in use and simultaneously overlapping the inner portion of the armour means, wherein step (a) includes arranging the signal conduit means to be between and overlapped by the inner and outer armour portions such that the armour means shields the signal conduit means at substantially opposite sides thereof simultaneously.

113. The method according to claim 109 in which the item of wearable armour is provided by arranging a plurality of overlapping adjacent armour portions to form a stack of armour portions within which the signal conduit means is incorporated so as to be located between and covered by overlapping armour portions of the stack.

114. The method according to claim 113 including providing said stack by arranging a plurality of overlapping adjacent layers of armour which overlap each other layer of the stack to form a laminate within which the signal conduit means is incorporated.

115. The method according to claim 109 including forming the signal conduit means upon a first item of armour, and subsequently sandwiching the signal conduit means between the first item of armour and a separate second item of armour thereby to form the wearable item of armour.

116. The method according to claim 115 including sandwiching the first item of armour between said separate second item of armour and a separate third item of armour thereby to form the item of wearable armour.

117. The method according to claim 109 in which step (a) includes forming/incorporating passive circuit components and/or active circuit components within the item of wearable armour to be operably connected to the signal conduit means therein.

118. The method according to claim 109 in which step (a) includes forming/incorporating signal processor means within the item of wearable armour to process signals conveyed to it by the signal conduit means therein and to generate signals for output to the signal conduit means.

119. The method according to claim 118 including operably connecting the signal processor means to the signal conduit means.

120. The method according to claim 109 in which step (a) includes forming the signal conduit means so as to include signal transfer means within the armour for transferring signals between the signal conduit means within the armour and signal responsive means external or internal to the armour to permit the passage of signals therebetween.

121. The method according to claim 120 in which the formation of said signal transfer means includes the formation of antenna means for wirelessly passing signals through the armour.

122. The method according to claim 121 including providing the signal transfer means with connector means arranged to connect the signal conduit to signal a signal conduit external to the armour.

123. The method according to claim 109 in which step (a) includes incorporating electrically responsive signal transmission means within the signal conduit means.

124. The method according to claim 109 in which step (a) includes incorporating at least a part of an electrical circuit means within the signal conduit means.

125. The method according to claim 109 in which step (a) includes incorporating optical signal transmission means into at least a part of the signal conduit means.

126. The method according to claim 109 in which step (a) includes forming the signal conduit means so as to be flexible.

127. The method according to claim 126 in which the item of wearable armour is incorporated into the item of apparel with the signal conduit means in a flexed state.

128. The method according to claim 109 in which step (a) includes mounting at least a part of the signal conduit upon a armoured mounting means, and step (b) includes incorporating the mounting means within the item of apparel to form at least a part of the armour of the apparel.

129. The method according to claim 109 in which step (a) includes embedding at least a part of the signal conduit within armoured mounting means, and step (b) includes incorporating the mounting means within the item of apparel to form at least a part of the armour of the apparel.

130. The method according to claim 109 in which step (a) includes providing the mounting means in the form of a sheet of armoured material with relatively thinned regions, forming the signal conduit means at relatively thinned regions of the sheet, and forming passive and/or active circuit components at other regions of the sheet.

131. The method according to claim 130 including providing the mounting means as a sheet of flexible electronic circuit board.

132. The method according to claim 109 including the additional step of forming an electromagnetic (EM) shield means within the item of armour to shield at least a part of the signal conduit means therein from electromagnetic radiation external to the apparel.

133. The method according to claim 132 including forming the EM shield means to shield passive and/or active components and said signal processor means from electromagnetic radiation external to the apparel.

134. The method according to claim 133 including forming the EM shield means within the apparel such that the items to be shielded thereby are located between the EM shield and the wearer of the apparel.

135. The method according to claim 133 including forming the EM shield means to enclose the items it is arranged to shield.

136. The method according to claim 109 including forming a moisture barrier means within the item of wearable armour around the signal conduit means to form a barrier to moisture.

137. The method according to claims 136 in which the moisture barrier means is also the EM shield means.

138. The method according to claims 136 including providing moisture responsive means within the item of wearable armour to provide a detectable response to the presence of moisture within the moisture barrier means.

139. The method according to claim 138 which the moisture responsive means is a humidity detector means, the method including arranging the humidity detector to monitor humidity within the moisture barrier means and to generate a detectable signal when the monitored humidity level exceeds a predetermined threshold.

140. An armour incorporating signal conduit means embedded therein for conveying signals within the armour.

141. A ballistic armour incorporating signal conduit means embedded therein for conveying signals within the armour.

Description:

The present invention relates to armour, and particularly though not exclusively to wearable armour and to items of armoured apparel, and methods for their manufacture.

The persons most likely to wear, or be required to wear, personal armour are typically also most likely to carry, or be required to carry, communications equipment. Examples include personnel of the security, police or armed services. Other items of equipment including circuitry or circuit components may also be required to be carried by such personnel. Often, several separate items of equipment must be carried by such personnel in addition to personal armour (e.g. body armour) and may, in total, constitute a considerable burden and cause some fatigue or discomfort to the wearer. Typically, although items of personal armour may permit other items of equipment to be attached thereto, they are not specifically designed with a view to accommodating the carriage of separate items of communications or other equipment and it is often the case that the wearing of body armour may obstruct the means by which the additional equipment is to be attached about the person or the wearer. Additionally, the personal armour itself typically provides no protection for the additional equipment, nor does the additional equipment provide any protection (e.g. ballistic protection) to the user.

The present invention aims to provide armour which addresses at least some of the aforementioned deficiencies in the prior art.

At its most general, the present invention proposes integrating the structure of armour with the structure of signal transmission means to enable that armour to be used as armoured protection for a wearer and for the signal transmission means and/or as a platform for conveying signals (e.g. for communication purposes or otherwise).

In a first of its aspects, the present invention may provide armoured apparel including armour means arranged to shield a wearer of the apparel in use, and signal conduit means incorporated within the apparel for conveying signals therein, the signal conduit means being arranged such that the armour means shields both the signal conduit means and the wearer of the apparel in use. In this way the armour means of the apparel, what ever form it takes (e.g. flexible armour such as sheets of flexible armour material, armour plating such as ceramic armour plates or the like) may be arranged within the apparel to at least shield the signal conduit means therein to at least some extent while simultaneously shielding the wearer of the apparel. The shielding of the signal conduit means may be performed by the armour means in the same way it performs shielding of the wearer. The armour means most preferably includes material(s) forming an area or areas resistant to penetration by impacting (e.g. ballistic) or cutting objects (e.g. stabbing objects) thereby to protect the wearer from such objects. The armour may be “ballistic armour” which is to be understood to include a reference to armour suitable for resisting and protecting a wearer from penetration by ballistic/high-velocity projectiles such as bullets etc.

The signal conduit means is preferably arranged between portions of the armour means such that the armour means shields the signal conduit means at substantially opposite sides thereof simultaneously. For example, the armour means of the apparel may have armour portions or parts arranged to be worn at, or to protect, opposite sides/regions of the wearer (e.g. front and back coverage) simultaneously. The same simultaneous protection is thereby afforded to the signal conduit means of the apparel.

The armour means preferably surrounds (e.g. wholly surrounds or encloses) the signal conduit means thereby to shield substantially all parts of the signal conduit means simultaneously, or at least at all sides of the signal conduit means.

Preferably, the signal conduit means is arranged between an inner portion of the armour means which is nearmost the wearer of the apparel in use, and an outer portion of the armour means more distant from the wearer of the apparel in use and simultaneously overlapping the inner portion of the armour means and the signal conduit means such that the armour means shields the signal conduit means at substantially opposite sides thereof simultaneously.

The armoured apparel according to the invention in its first aspect preferably incorporates signal conduit means within the armour means thereof for conveying signals therein. For example, incorporation may be by embedding and/or encapsulating within the armour means.

The armour means may include a plurality of overlapping adjacent armour portions forming a stack of armour portions within which the signal conduit means is incorporated so as to be located between and covered by overlapping armour portions of the stack. Each armour portion of the stack may be a layer of armour which overlaps each other layer of the stack to form a laminate within which the signal conduit means is incorporated.

In this way signal conduit means may be comprised and/or formed and/or embedded within the structure and body of the armour of the apparel as distinct from being merely surrounded by such armour without being incorporated therein. The conduit means is thereby robustly protected by the armour.

The armoured apparel may incorporate passive circuit components and/or active circuit components shielded by, and preferably incorporated within, the armour means being most preferably operably connected to the signal conduit means therein.

The armoured apparel may incorporate signal processor means shielded by (e.g. incorporated within) the armour means arranged to process signals conveyed to it e.g. by the signal conduit means therein. Additionally, or alternatively, the signal processor means may be arranged to generate signals for output to the signal conduit means.

The signal processor means may be operably connected to the signal conduit means or may be unconnected thereto but otherwise arranged to convey signals to/from the signal conduit means (e.g. wirelessly).

For example, the signal conduit means may include signal transfer means shielded by, or incorporated within, the armour means to transfer signals between the signal conduit means shielded by, or incorporated within, the armour means and signal responsive means external or internal to the apparel or the armour means to permit the passage of signals therebetween. The signal transfer means may include antenna means for wirelessly passing signals through the armour means. Such wireless communication may be between components incorporated for example within the apparel (e.g. within the armour means) or may be between internal and external communication means. Active components within the apparel and/or armour means may, therefore, include wireless signal generators/transmitters and/or receivers, each may be connected operably to one or more of the antenna means.

The signal transfer means may include connector means arranged to connect the signal conduit to signal a signal conduit external to the apparel and/or armour means. The connector means may pass through the armour means thereby enabling contact/connection therewith by an external signal conduit externally or vice versa for internal connection. The connector means may provide signal input/output ports via which signals may be communicated to and/or from within the apparel and/or armour means. Power may also be conveyed to/from within the apparel and/or armour means in this way.

The signal conduit means may incorporate electrically responsive signal transmission means, and may incorporate at least a part of an electrical circuit means.

A power supply means, for supplying power to the signal conduit means and components operably connected thereto, may be incorporated within the apparel so as to be shielded by (e.g. incorporated within) the armour means. The power supply means may be connected to the signal conduit means, or to passive/active or signal processor means within the apparel and/or armour means. The power supply means may include an inductive coupling means (e.g. an inductor coil/loop) arranged to be responsive to an external inductive coupling means to generate energy thereby to power electrical components incorporated within the apparel and/or armour means.

Additionally, or alternatively, the signal conduit means may incorporate or include optical signal transmission means, such as fibre-optic transmission lines. Passive or active optical or electro/optical components may be incorporated in the armour. The signal conduit means may incorporate/include electromagnetic signal transmission lines such as micro-strip lines/waveguides for conveying microwave or similar radiation.

Preferably, the signal conduit means is flexible. This enables the conduit to be flexed in use and when worn thereby enabling its use in armour of a curved nature. The armoured apparel in which the signal conduit means is incorporated may be flexed, and the signal conduit means may be in a correspondingly flexed state.

At least a part of (preferably all of) the signal conduit may be mounted upon, or formed within, a mounting means which itself forms at least a part of the armour of the apparel. Kevlar® or similar materials are suitable for this purpose since this material is suitable for use not only as armour (e.g. ballistic armour) but also as a mounting board for electrical circuits (e.g. a circuit board). Other (e.g. ceramic) materials may be used with or in place of flexible armour. For example, at least a part of (or the whole of) the signal conduit may be embedded within a mounting means which itself forms at least a part of the armour means of the apparel.

The mounting means may be structured to afford strengthened regions for mounting delicate/sensitive components thereon, and weaker, but preferably lighter and more flexible regions for mounting the conduit. The mounting means may be a sheet (e.g. Kevlar (RTM), ceramic material etc) having regions where passive and/or active circuit components are located, and relatively thinner regions where the signal conduit means is located. Preferably, only signal conduit means is/are located at/on the thinner regions. Alternatively, where the material of the mounting means is suitably flexible, the mounting means may dispense with variations in thickness as described above.

The mounting means may be a sheet of flexible electronic circuit board and the conduit means may be signal conduit tracks (e.g. printed/etched conductive tracks) formed on the circuit board. Active and/or passive components etc. may also simply be mounted on the circuit board in a conventional manner. Kevlar® circuit boards may be used. The mounting means may be flexed in use.

At least a part of the signal conduit is preferably fully enclosed (e.g. encapsulated) within the armour means of the apparel. That is to say, the signal conduit, or at least parts of it, may be wholly surrounded (e.g. on all sides) by the armour of the apparel. In alternative embodiments the conduit may be within the armour means (e.g. sandwiched therein between armour parts) without being wholly surrounded thereby.

The armoured apparel may include electromagnetic (EM) shield means arranged e.g. within the armour means thereof to shield at least a part of the signal conduit means incorporated within the armour means from electromagnetic radiation external to the apparel. The EM shield means may comprise metallic foil extending over (but separated from) the conduit etc, or metalised plastic sheeting. The EM shield is particularly useful when the conduit and/or active or passive components, and/or a signal processor within the armour are electronic/electrical in nature.

The EM shield means is preferably also arranged to shield passive and/or active components and said signal processor means from electromagnetic radiation external to the apparel. This shielding may not be required if those components are not electrical/electronic, e.g. if they are fibre-optic etc.

Armoured apparel is preferably structured such that the EM shield means is arranged within the apparel such that the items to be shielded thereby are located between the EM shield and the wearer of the apparel. This structure ensures that the EM shield is positioned between the protected items and the outside world, which will typically be the source of the EM radiation from which the items are to be protected.

The EM shield means preferably encloses the items it is arranged to shield. However, where the item of apparel circumscribes a wearer (e.g. a vest wrapping wholly around a wearers torso) it may be sufficient to provide EM shield material circumscribing the wearer in use and also the items to be protected. This would not enclose or encapsulate the items but would provide 360° EM shielding.

The armoured apparel may include moisture barrier means arranged within the armour means thereof around the signal conduit means (and preferably also, passive, active and signal processor means) incorporated therein to form a barrier to moisture. The moisture barrier means preferably fully encloses the items for which it forms a moisture barrier. The barrier is preferably water/moisture proof. Preferably, the moisture barrier means is also the EM shield means. Preferably, the moisture barrier means also fully encloses all of the armour means of the armoured apparel. This provision is particularly useful when the armour material and/or the mounting means is E.g. kevlar® which rapidly loses rigidity (or becomes more easily deformable) and thereby loses protectiveness upon contact with moisture. Water effectively lubricates the fibres of the armour material and the resultant effect is that the material deforms more easily. Of course, in embodiments employing armour material not affected by moisture in this way, a moisture barrier may be dispensed with out detriment or risk. Moisture is also generally detrimental to the signal conduit means and any passive/active, or signal processing components within the armour.

The armoured apparel may include moisture responsive means arranged to provide a detectable response to the presence of moisture within the moisture barrier means. The moisture responsive means is preferably a humidity detector means arranged to monitor humidity within the moisture barrier means and to generate a detectable signal when the monitored humidity level exceeds a predetermined threshold. The detectable signal may be wirelessly transmitted from within the armour means, or may be audibly broadcast from therein, or may be displayed upon a visual display means (e.g. LCD screen) embedded in the armour means.

Some or all of the armour means of the apparel may be rigid, or may be flexible. A combination of hard (e.g. ceramic) armour and soft (e.g. Kevlar®) armour may be employed.

Where the signal conduit means includes connector means, most preferably the connector means is arranged to extend through any EM shield and/or moisture barrier within or upon the armour means.

Preferably the armour means of the apparel is formed as a series of adjacent overlapping layers of armour material with the items incorporated within the armour (e.g. signal conduit means, passive/active components etc, EM shield, moisture barrier etc) being sandwiched between adjacent layers of armour material. Preferably the EM shield and/or moisture barrier is separated from the signal conduit means (and any components/signal processors associated therewith) by an intermediate layer of armour material. Multiple separate EM barrier layers and/or multiple separate moisture barrier layers may be provided in this way each being separated from any other non-armour layer by at least one layer (e.g. two layers) of armour material. Preferably, the signal conduit (and associated components) is sandwiched between two such multi-layered armour structures.

The armoured apparel is preferably arranged to be worn about the body or head of the wearer (e.g. a helmet). In the former case, flexible armour permits the apparel to deform to the shape of the wearer. Tiles of hard armour may be incorporated in the apparel. The armoured apparel may be an item of combat armour, e.g. suitable for use by soldiers in combat for their protection, but is not limited to this use of course. Radio transmitter and/or receiver circuitry and/or display circuitry may be incorporated within the armour. For example, such receiver, transmitter or display circuitry may be arranged upon, or embedded within, an outer layer/portion of armour which is outermost the wearer in use, the circuitry being arranged at the inwardly-facing (i.e. wearer-facing) side of the outer armour part. The circuitry thereby may be sandwiched between the outer armour part and an adjacent inner armour layer/part located nearer the wearer in use. The outer layer is preferably hard armour material (e.g. plate) and the inner layer is preferably flexible armour material. Preferably, the sandwiched circuitry is sandwiched against the outward facing surface of the inner layer.

The signal conduit means and active or passive components and/or signal processors may be arranged over areas of least curvature within the armour means (e.g. over the chest or back area of an armoured vest/body armour), or may be placed in regions of relatively high curvature (e.g. across the sides of a vest, or across a helmet).

The armour of the apparel may be ballistic armour, or may be non-ballistic protective armour (e.g. not bullet proof, but “stab-proof” etc.) The invention in its first aspect provides armoured apparel which may result from a method of manufacture of the same according to a further aspect of this invention.

Accordingly, in a second of its aspects, the present invention may provide a method of manufacturing an item of armoured apparel for shielding a wearer of the apparel in use including providing an item of wearable armour and an item of apparel, and (in any order): (a) incorporating a signal conduit means within the item of apparel for conveying signals therein; (b) arranging the item of wearable armour in the item of apparel; wherein the signal conduit means is arranged such that the wearable armour shields both the signal conduit means and the wearer of the apparel in use.

The method may include arranging the signal conduit means to be between portions of the wearable armour such that the armour shields the signal conduit means at substantially opposite sides thereof simultaneously. The method may include arranging the signal conduit means to be surrounded by the wearable armour such that the armour shields substantially all parts of (or at least all sides of) the signal conduit means simultaneously.

Step (b) may include providing an inner portion of wearable armour which is nearmost the wearer of the apparel in use, and an outer portion of wearable armour more distant from the wearer of the apparel in use and simultaneously overlapping the inner portion of the armour means, wherein step (a) preferably includes arranging the signal conduit means to be between and overlapped by the inner and outer armour portions such that the armour means shields the signal conduit means at substantially opposite sides thereof simultaneously.

Step (a) may include incorporating the signal conduit means within the item of wearable armour.

The item of wearable armour may be provided by arranging a plurality of overlapping adjacent armour portions to form a stack of armour portions within which the signal conduit means is incorporated so as to be located between and covered by overlapping armour portions of the stack. The method may include providing the stack by arranging a plurality of overlapping adjacent layers of armour which overlap each other layer of the stack to form a laminate within which the signal conduit means is incorporated.

Preferably, the method includes forming or mounting the signal conduit means upon a first item of armour, and subsequently sandwiching the signal conduit means between the first item of armour and a separate second item of armour thereby to form the wearable item of armour.

The method may include sandwiching the first item of armour between said separate second item of armour and a separate third item of armour thereby to form the item of wearable armour.

The method may include forming/incorporating passive circuit components and/or active circuit components within the item of apparel, and preferably within the item of wearable armour, to be operably connected to the signal conduit means therein.

The method may include forming/incorporating signal processor means within the item of apparel, and preferably within the item of wearable armour, to process signals conveyed to it by the signal conduit means therein and to generate signals for output to the signal conduit means.

The method may include operably connecting the signal processor means to the signal conduit means.

The method may include forming the signal conduit means so as to include signal transfer means within the apparel, and preferably within the item of wearable armour, for transferring signals between the signal conduit means within the apparel/armour means and signal responsive means external or internal to the apparel/armour means to permit the passage of signals therebetween.

In the method, the formation of said signal transfer means may include the formation of antenna means for wirelessly passing signals through the item of armour.

The method may include providing the signal transfer means with connector means arranged to connect the signal conduit to signal a signal conduit external to the apparel and/or item of armour.

The method may include incorporating electrically responsive signal transmission means within the signal conduit means.

The method may include incorporating at least a part of an electrical circuit means within the signal conduit means.

The method may include incorporating optical signal transmission means into at least a part of the signal conduit means. The method may include forming the signal conduit means so as to be flexible, and the item of wearable armour may be incorporated into the item of apparel with the signal conduit means in a flexed state.

The method may include mounting at least a part of the signal conduit upon a armoured mounting means, and may include incorporating the mounting means within the item of apparel to form at least a part of the armour of the apparel.

The method may include embedding at least a part of the signal conduit within armoured mounting means, and may include incorporating the mounting means within the item of apparel to form at least a part of the armour of the apparel.

The method may include providing the mounting means in the form of a sheet of armoured material with relatively thinned regions, forming the signal conduit means at relatively thinned regions of the sheet, and forming passive and/or active circuit components at other regions of the sheet.

The method may include providing the mounting means as a sheet of flexible electronic circuit board.

The method may include the additional step of forming an electromagnetic (EM) shield means within the item of apparel and/or armour to shield at least a part of the signal conduit means therein from electromagnetic radiation external to the apparel.

The method preferably includes forming the EM shield means to shield passive and/or active components and said signal processor means from electromagnetic radiation external to the apparel.

The method may include forming the EM shield means within the apparel such that the items to be shielded thereby are located between the EM shield and the wearer of the apparel, or forming the EM shield means to enclose the items it is arranged to shield.

A method may include forming a moisture barrier means within the item of wearable armour around the signal conduit means to form a barrier to moisture. Preferably, the moisture barrier means is also the EM shield means.

A method may include providing moisture responsive means within the item of wearable armour to provide a detectable response to the presence of moisture within the moisture barrier means. The moisture responsive means is preferably a humidity detector means, the method preferably including arranging the humidity detector to monitor humidity within the moisture barrier means and to generate a detectable signal when the monitored humidity level exceeds a predetermined threshold.

It is to be understood that while the foregoing, and following, refers to an item of apparel incorporating signal conduit means (and other items) within the armour thereof, the present invention may also provide the armour alone, whether or not within an item of apparel, but preferably being suitable for such use.

Accordingly, in a third of its aspects, the present invention may provide armour incorporating signal conduit means embedded (e.g. encapsulated) therein for conveying signals within the armour.

In a fourth of its aspects the present invention may provide ballistic armour incorporating signal conduit means embedded (e.g. encapsulated) therein for conveying signals within the armour.

FIG. 1a illustrates an item of armoured apparel in the form of an armoured vest;

FIG. 1b illustrates a cut-away view of the body armour in FIG. 1a and shows the armoured vest incorporating electronic circuitry within its armour;

FIG. 2 schematically illustrates a cross-sectional view of electronic circuitry embedded and enclosed within armour material employed within the armoured vest of FIG. 1a and FIG. 1b;

FIG. 3 schematically illustrates a cross-sectional view of the armoured apparel of FIG. 1 illustrating the multi-layered structure thereof.

In the figures like items are assigned like reference symbols.

FIG. 1a illustrates an item of armoured apparel (1). The apparel in question is body armour in the form of an armoured vest to be worn about the torso of a wearer.

FIG. 1b illustrates this vest in a schematic “cut-away” view in which the structure of the vest, and its armour, is shown. The armour (2,5) of the apparel is housed within an outer cosmetic layer/structure which may be any suitable material or fabric of a durable nature. A pocket (11) is provided in the vest for housing a rigid armoured breast plate tile (item 7, FIG. 1b). The armoured vest incorporates flexible ballistic armour formed from a laminate including sheets of E.g. kevlar (RTM) or similar such material. The laminate comprises an outer layer (5) of such armour positioned outermost the wearer in use, and an inner layer (2) of armour positioned nearmost the wearer in use. The inner and outer armour layers are substantially identically shaped and positioned relative to each other such that each wholly overlaps the other within the laminate, with peripheral edges thereof being contiguous.

Electronic circuit components are incorporated within the laminate being sandwiched between the inner and the outer armour layers, and are themselves formed or mounted upon a sheet or sheets of E.g. kevlar® flexible circuit board material (3,4) which also provides ballistic armour/protection to the wearer. The circuit carrying armour sheet (3,4) is formed to define relatively thin areas of armour material (3) upon which only signal conduits are formed, and relatively thicker areas of armour material (4) upon which electronic components are formed or mounted. The relatively thicker areas (4) provide greater structural support for the electronic components which may be vulnerable to damage by excessive flexing of the circuit board material. This is generally not so for the signal conduit means which are flexible and formed upon thinner and more flexible regions of the circuit board. Regions of the circuit board intermediate adjacent electronic components are also similarly relatively thin thereby allowing greater flexing of the circuit board at regions in between neighbouring electronic components. This allows a region of the circuit board populated by a plurality of electronic components to be flexed as a whole without subjecting its constituent electronic components to undue flexing and stress.

The signal conduit means is formed on the relatively thin circuit board regions (3) by direct printing or etching in a conventional manner as would be readily apparent to a person skilled in the art of circuit board manufacture. Alternatively, the signal conduit means may be optical signal conduit means comprising optical fibres, or maybe printed microstrip/waveguide line(s) for conveying microwave or other electromagnetic signals or the like.

The electronic components include any suitable active and/or passive electronic/electrical circuit components (e.g. silicon chips, resistors, inductors, capacitors etc. not shown) as would be suitable for the purpose and function of the circuit parts incorporated within the armour. The armour may incorporate a complete circuit or parts of a circuit (or both). The circuit board (3,4) may be shaped as shown in FIG. 1b to provide a number of separate relatively expansive regions (9,10) each containing a population/conurbation of electronic components grouped upon adjacent thickened circuit board regions (4). Each such separate population (9,10) may be operably connected to another such population by means of a bridge or isthmus (8) of relatively thin circuit board (3) upon which signal conduits are formed via which components upon one population may communicate with those upon another population.

Alternatively, or additionally, no such connecting bridge or isthmus may be provided between selected separate populations either because no such communication is required, or because wireless communications means are provided upon the selected population(s) and those with which they are arranged to wirelessly communicate in use. To this extent, electronic components incorporated within the armour may include wireless signal transmitters and/or receivers. The signal conduit means may be shaped to provide an antenna(s) (not shown) for wireless reception and/or transmission of signals between circuit components within the armour and/or for transmission and/or reception of wireless signals to/from outside the armour. The signal conduit means may include parts shaped to form a patch/micro-strip antenna (not shown). Any suitable existing wireless transmission/reception means and methods, such as will be readily apparent to the skilled addressee, may be employed for this purpose. For example, mobile phone technologies may be used, “Blue Tooth” wireless technologies may be used for example.

The incorporated circuit components may simply form a part of a larger circuit, parts of which reside outside the armour, but which communicate with the incorporated components wirelessly and/or by means of signal connectors. Such signal connectors (not shown) provide a physical interface (e.g. a socket) between incorporated components and external ones.

The incorporated circuit components preferably include a signal processor means arranged to (e.g. programmed or hardwired) to perform any number of desired signal processing and/or control functions. The processor may be re-programmable and preferably performs multiple diverse functions which would typically be performed by multiple separate external processors in existing arrangements.

For example, the processor may be arranged to process external communications signals conveyed to/from the wearer of the apparel and thereby obviate the need for an external communication signal processor. Signals may be received and/or transmitted via incorporated antenna means thereby also obviating the need for an external antenna. Alternatively, or additionally, signal connector means in the armour may permit signals to pass from the processor incorporated within the armour to an external antenna operably connectable to the connector means.

Many types of armour material, and particularly flexible armour material of the E.g. kevlar (RTM) variety, operate by providing a means for the dispersal of kinetic energy associated with an impacting projectile along the armour material in a direction transverse to the trajectory of the projectile. Any due dispersal efficiency rapidly falls when such material absorbs moisture, in a manner analogous to the loss in the ability of a drum skin to transversely disperse the kinetic energy of an impacting drumstick head when the drum skin becomes moist. Loss in transverse energy dispersal efficiency leads to a greater possibility of the armour being penetrated by a projectile. Clearly, such a course of events would be undesirable, not least to the wearer of the armoured apparel.

In the present example, the incorporated circuit components include a signal processor (not shown) programmed to monitor humidity levels within the armour laminate in which it is incorporated. Active and passive circuit components within the armour include humidity and/or moisture and/or temperature detectors which provide signals to the signal processor means indicative of detected internal humidity/moisture levels. The signal processor is arranged to produce a signal indicative of the presence within the armour of a moisture/humidity level exceeding a threshold value stored within the processor. The signal is communicated to outside the armour to the wearer (or to others) either as a warning message/data conveyed wirelessly, or by an audible signal or visually via a visual display means (e.g. LCD screen, not shown) mounted upon the armour or apparel and operably connected to, or otherwise in communication with, the signal processor.

FIG. 2 schematically illustrates a cross-sectional view of the flexible circuit board structure upon which the signal circuit and passive/active/processor components are mounted. The circuit board structure comprises two sheets (18,19) of flexible E.g. kevlar-type material upon (or embedded within) opposing faces (16,17) of which are passive and/or active circuit components (20) and parts of the signal conduit (21). The two sheets are bonded together at their opposing faces to form a single laminate circuit-carrying board with circuit components enclosed therein. The bonded opposing faces are positioned such that selected signal conduit portions on the one face align with and connect/contact with opposing signal conduit parts or components on the opposing face with which they are to communicate in use. Each of the two opposing bonded sheets (18,19), has relatively thick parts (4) carrying active/passive components, and relatively thin parts (3) carrying only signal conduit parts. Thin and thick parts of one sheet align with thin and thick parts, respectively, of the opposing sheet, such that the laminate has correspondingly positioned thin and thick parts.

FIG. 3 schematically illustrates a cross-sectional view of the entirety of one side (e.g. the breast-plate) of the armoured vest (1).

The armour comprises a laminate including multiple sheets of flexible armour material (e.g. Kevlar) between sheets of which are sandwiched the circuit board layer (3,4) of FIG. 2, and also to electromagnetic (EM) shielding layers (36) comprised of a metal foil, or metalised plastic sheeting, which together wholly enclose two flexible armour sheets (32) which themselves also enclose the circuit board layer (3,4). A further two sheets of flexible armour material (33,34) overlay each of the two EM shielding layers. This nine-layer inner laminate structure is also enclosed in (and sandwiched between) two outer vapour barrier layers each comprised of a sheet (or sheets) of durable waterproof material such as plastics material.

The two EM shielding layers each also serve as a moisture barrier layer which not only protects from moisture the flexible armour sheets (32) sandwiched between them, but also protect circuitry in this way. Thus, an 11-layer laminate of moisture-protected armour is provided, the layering within the laminate being symmetrical about the circuit board layer at its centre. Asymmetrical layering may be employed of course.

A final cosmetic layer (6) of material/fabric is provided forming the part of the structure of the vest within which the armour laminate is housed. The cosmetic layer may be any suitably durable material (e.g. canvas). Referring to FIG. 1b, the vest possesses an outer pocket (11) positioned over the chest area of the vest within which a tile of hard ceramic ballistic armour is housed. This hard armour tile may also incorporate an electronic layer incorporating, for example, radio transmitters and/or receivers and electronics for controlling an LCD computer display terminal (not shown) mounted upon the surface of the tile providing an interface to computing means incorporated and housed within the tile of armour. The same or similar arrangement may also be provided in respect of the flexible armour laminate discussed above. It is to be appreciated that the above examples are not intended to be limiting examples and that variants or modifications thereof, such as would be readily apparent to the skilled person, may be made, and are envisaged, without departing from the scope of the invention.