Wetsuit Materials

BUOYANCY EFFICACY OF SMOOTH SKIN NEOPRENE

Neoprene was invented by DuPont in 1937 from acetylene chemistry. For diving and exposure protection applications, neoprene is manufactured by foaming the polymers with nitrogen gas, for the insulation properties of the tiny enclosed and separated gas bubbles (nitrogen is used for chemical convenience, not because it is superior to air as an insulator). The foam cells thus created also make the material quite buoyant, and the diver must compensate for this by wearing weights. Thick wet suits made at the extreme end of their cold water protection are usually made of 7mm thick neoprene. Since foam neoprene contains gas pockets, the material compresses under water pressure, getting thinner at greater depths; a 7mm neoprene wet suit offers much less exposure protection under 100 feet of water than at the surface. A recent advance in neoprene for wet suits is the “super-flex” variety, which mixes spandex into the neoprene for greater flexibility.

As a result, wetsuit neoprene sheets are manufactured in different grades dependent on the application. Diving suit neoprene is denser and less flexible; this ensures its durability and reduces compression at depth. Sailing wetsuits are never exposed to large compressive forces and contain more gas, so are warmer for the same thickness.

Competitive swimming wetsuits are made of the most expanded foam; they have to be very flexible to allow the Neoprene swimmer unrestricted movement. For the swim specific application, only the smooth top and bottom layer of the raw neoprene block is used. This is referred to as smooth skin neoprene. The downside is that it is quite fragile. To counter this weakness, manufacturers of swim-specific neoprene have created silicone coatings that are infused into the smooth skin surface to strengthen it from nicks and tears. This process has often made the smooth skin stronger, more rigid, less flexible and thus been a step backwards.

SyPrene-SuperFlex with Nano SCS has overcome this hurdle and offers both superior buoyancy and flexibility. In fact, no other smooth skin material is as buoyant and flexible as SyPrene. When we set out to find the best neoprene to use, we decided to look at all options and not just the usual suspects. We were determined to follow our ethos and do the research ourselves and not rely on any data we could verify. So we got samples from over 30 suppliers worldwide and cut each swatch to the exact same size. Each swatch of neoprene was placed into a tank of fresh water and weights were attached to see Floatation how much displacement each piece had before reaching neutral buoyancy. We were amazed to find that there was significant differences and we narrow down the top performers in buoyancy.

We then went on to test flexibility. To do this properly, we had to instruct the producers of the top neoprene buoyancy performers on what ultra stretchy lining material  to the non-smooth side of the neoprene. We also insisted on adding elastomers for increased flexibility. Some factories were not interested in changing their lamination and production process, but the ones that were, also showed a willingness to challenge the status quo and an interest in making the best product they possibly could. By stretching each new swatch, we that could stretch the most, while still having complete return, and 2. We wanted to find the material that would flex the most with the least load. Not surprising we ended up with a very flexible rubber that had fantastic flexibility under very low load, but had no durability and very little buoyancy. We needed to find the material that “had it all.” Once we had this narrowed down, we went to the factory and negotiated an exclusivity. We named it SyPrene – SuperFlex. SyPrene has a elasticity return rate of whopping 680%, yet is more buoyant and durable than all others tested.

Today we make a very high end product and sell it at a very good value to our customers. One of the many reasons that Synergy wetsuits are so reasonably priced is that we have an obligation to our factory partner to buy all their smooth skin production.They value our input into how to better their product, and we value their commitment to us as their exclusive partner. Synergy is now working on applying both this revolutionary material and our designs into mainstream wetsuits, surf and dive suits as well as dry-suits. We are committed to making the best wetsuits the world has ever seen.