NPL's specialised measurement equipment (including a guarded hot plate, wireless temperature sensors, and a thermal camera) was used to measure wetsuits' thermal performance. This provides valuable data on how much heat is lost through various parts of the wetsuit, and how quickly that heat is lost.
As anticipated, the lab results confirmed that the main factor in a wetsuit's ability to keep its user warm is the thickness of the material, as opposed to its surface finish.
The field tests (which took place on a breezy day in March 2010) on the other hand revealed what happens when wind chill effects become dominant – the surface finish of the wetsuit becomes all-important. The challenge for NPL is to further our understanding of wind chill, by directly measuring its effects.
Check how NPL and Spartan tested wetsuits. This information is useful to wetsuit manufacturers because it gives them the much-needed measurement data that can inform their product development, enabling them to make better decisions about the materials and construction methods they use.
This is a great example of NPL's measurement expertise having a positive impact on a UK company's ability to compete in a crowded worldwide market, by solving their measurement challenges.
"NPL's wetsuit testing has really helped us gain a better understanding of the technical side of wetsuit design. We are now focused on improving our suits by using the correct materials and fully testing everything before production. Neoprene suppliers send us samples with subjective claims as to a material's suitability for our needs, rather than objective data about its thermal performance".
"NPL's testing has highlighted the need to research the correct new material and has saved us producing whole ranges of suits (saving us at least £100,000) that would effectively be next to useless for the colder northern European countries we sell to."
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