A West Midlands company is leading the way in the provision of bullet-proof, blast-proof, vandal-proof and fire retardant materials for the construction industry.
Dudley-based Optimal Armour has developed a range of ground-breaking products suitable for a wide variety of architectural applications.
Simone Sposato, managing director of Optimal Armour, is one of the country's leading experts on armour technology and believes that the growing demand for bullet-proof building materials is set to continue.
He said: "It is a sad fact that gun-related crimes are rising dramatically on a worldwide scale.
"This, combined with the growing threat of terrorism, means that architects are now spec-ifying armoured products as standard requirements for many new buildings in high risk sectors.
"At one time this would have meant mainly financial institutions, military and government sites, but armour is increasingly required in the leisure and transport industry as well as private homes."
Mr Sposato set up the company last year with fellow directors David Turner and Russell Ardagh who worked together at Meggitt Armour Systems in Dudley.
When Meggitt relocated to Slough, they followed, but when the British conglomerate began winding down its operations, they decided to set up on their own.
The trio launched Optimal Armour after borrowing money from the bank to buy equipment and premises on the Shaw Road Industrial Estate.
With more than 30 years collective experience in the design and manufacture of armour, the Optimal Armour team is constantly researching and developing potentially life-saving solutions to counter ever more powerful and penetrative weaponry.
The latest series of products have proved highly effective in test conditions against some of the most lethal ammunition in the world including the .357 magnum and high powered sniper rifles.
It produces composites of fibre and resin material, which is then baked at high temperature and exposed to high pressure to make dense panels which measure up to 12 mm thick.
The key to the stopping power of the Optimal Armour's range is in the dense packing of multiple layers which will absorb and destroy projectiles before they pass through the material - an approach which has been shown to be far safer and more successful than deflection.
The other advantage to their architectural range of armours is that they can be worked on site with standard tools, and behave very much like hardwood when cutting and drilling, unlike traditional hardened steel products which require specialist tooling and assembly techniques.
The same materials are now also being used in buildings where high levels of wear and tear or vandalism have been identified as a likely problem.
The company works with shop fitters and architects to produce the panels to order, while it has also begun work on military projects.
Optimal Armour has already begun work on a truck armouring project for Brinks Mat, producing a prototype for the courier's security vehicles.
It is also carrying out work on boat armouring projects for the Royal Navy as well as helicopter armour for the Danish air force.
Mr Sposato said: "We had more than 18 years experience in the industry and we saw a niche.
"The potential military uptake is huge because of the security situation around the world, while the corporate sector is becoming increasingly concerned about protecting people and equipment.
"We are constantly developing new products. There are lots of materials suppliers, and it is our skill to combine them the right types in the correct proportions."
Sales of £250,000 were achieved in the first year, although the company is hopeful of more orders which could in turn lead to more jobs.
Mr Sposato said: "We had quite a long introductory period as we established ourselves, but it is picking up now.
"The beauty is that although we are a new company, we are established people in the industry which means that we can talk about the technology and that very much opens doors for us."