Bob Wolffe, who had a PhD in chemical engineering, worked with the aircraft industry to develop markets for Kevlar fibers in weight-saving composite materials. Wolffe consulted with aircraft engineers to learn their requirements and made composite materials to meet the industry’s specifications. The first applications were for interior, non-structural uses where failure would not jeopardize the safe operation of the aircraft. Over time, DuPont developed significant domestic and international markets for Kelvar composites in aircraft. Wolffe noted, though, that the most important application was in ballistics.
In the 1980s DuPont decided to produce its own fabricated composite parts instead of just supplying Kevlar fabric. This business did not succeed because the company underestimated the importance of design and testing of aircraft parts. Wolffe eventually left DuPont and started his own advanced materials business. He later worked for an armor firm that did not use Kevlar because high strength polyethylene fibers had better properties.