3M Co. has won an $80 million contract to make stronger combat helmets for the U.S. Marine Corps, company officials announced Tuesday.
The contract means the Maplewood-based conglomerate better known for making Scotch tape and Post-it notes will manufacture 77,000 rugged combat helmets with 50 percent more protection than Marine helmets currently in use.
3M begins delivering the helmets this fall, and Marines are scheduled to get them early next year. Other terms of the contract were not disclosed.
“3M is pleased to win this significant contract,” said Mark Colin, general manager of 3M’s advanced ceramics platform. Under terms of the deal, the new helmets must weigh no more than the old ones and yet must add “enhanced ballistic protection” from small arms ammunition and fragments, he said.
The helmets also have to fit well with existing military gear such as night vision goggles, camouflage covers and body armor systems.
The unique contract is the result of California-based Ceradyne Inc., the high-tech industrial ceramics firm 3M bought in November for $860 million.
Ceradyne’s hearty and heat-resistant ceramics are already used in car engines, helicopter armor, even missile nose cones.
In March, 3M’s Ceradyne division won a $40 million Department of Defense contract to make 242,000 body-armor plates for soldiers serving in Afghanistan. Delivery of the plates is scheduled to be completed this month.
3M did have a relationship with the U.S. military before Ceradyne. Its 3M Defense unit provided more traditional products for use in the field such as protective eyewear, hearing protection, respirators and vehicle protection adhesives. With Ceradyne on board, 3M will continue to push its ability to make strong but lightweight protective products for the military, officials said.