Company Designs Humvee Flooring That Could Save Soldiers

Thermoplastic Could Save Lives In Event Of IED Attack, SKYDEX CEO Says

Two Fort Carson soldiers are among the more than a dozen Americans who died in Afghanistan over the past three days. Spc. Eric Lembke, 25, of Tampa, Fla., and 30-year-old Pfc. Kimble Han of Lehi, Utah, died on Friday after their vehicle was targeted by an improvised explosive device, or IED. Both soldiers were assigned to the 4th Engineer Battalion at the mountain post. Because of the continued threat of IEDs, a Colorado company has developed a blast impact product for military vehicles that could save lives.

The company is called SKYDEX Technologies Inc., and CEO Mike Buchen is so sure of his company's product, he's willing to risk breaking his hand to demonstrate it. "You take this helmet, which has some weight, and you go like this," said Buchen as he slammed a Kevlar helmet on his hand, which was covered by a piece of SKYDEX thermoplastic urethane. "Nothing!" SKYDEX is a blast mitigating thermoplastic flooring for military vehicles like Humvees, designed to save soldiers' lives.

"Well, there's a big problem, obviously, with IEDs and vehicles," said Buchen. "The dynamite, the C-4 is getting bigger and bigger and bigger. And this is a huge issue." The product is tested at remote sites here in Colorado, and prototypes are then sent to the troops to test for themselves. "We always say we start with the boots on the ground," said SKYDEX marketing manager Katy Wanek. "When we develop all the products -- we're working either with a branch or with a unit of the military."

Buchen said the product is practically as tough as steel, but lighter and more durable. "It's more expensive than foam. But there's just no comparison in the performance," said Buchen. It is manufactured in the United States and is primarily recycled material.

"It's made from about 85 percent reground, like you see in this bag, material," said Buchen. Some SKYDEX products, such as a seat cushion designed for Humvees, also has benefits in mitigating chronic injuries.

"Some (soldiers) live in these Humvees. Their backs are destroyed, clear up through the neck," said Buchen. "This helps to absorb much of the vibration." SKYDEX started as an athletic company designing pads for football helmets. They transitioned to impact pads for Kevlar combat helmets. Now they focus primarily on military contracts.

"We've got a lot of work to do saving soldiers," said Buchen.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Defense has ordered 7,000 new vehicles to be outfitted with SKYDEX by the end of 2010. "To go home and think that we may have made a difference in one soldier's life or two or three is a pretty good deal," said Buchen. Buchen said Australia, Israel and several European nations have also expressed interest in the product. The company has a list of approved allies, and told 7NEWS it will not do business with U.S. enemies.