Firm develops high-tech clothes for high-risk jobs

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A Duffield-based company is supplying high-tech, protective clothing to the Ministry of Defence’s SAS special forces and emergency services personnel.

Armadillo Merino has developed a superfine wool from Merino sheep which is safer than the synthetic fibres often used in high-risk jobs as it is fire resistant up to 600 degrees Celsius.

Founder Andy Caughey, 53, originally from New Zealand, started the company in 2011, having previously been managing director of Smedley’s Mill.

Now Armadillo, based on Nether Close, ships the protective clothing to 26 different countries.

He said: “My background is working with wool as a fibre for fashion and outdoor clothing brands.

“But what we wanted to do was provide something for professional risk-takers such as police, fire and military personnel.

“It provides an extra level of protection for people whose lives are at risk.”

Andy came up with the idea for Armadillo Merino while watching news reports of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with burns and injuries caused by the clothes they were wearing.

The next-to-skin clothing his company produces does not melt or drip if it burns, keeps wearers warm when in the cold and helps cool them down in the heat.

Because the superfine wool used by Armadillo Merino clothing, also being supplied to astronauts, is so highly heat- resistant wearers can avoid the kind of injuries caused by the melting which occurs in synthetic material as the material melts and drips onto their skin.

Not only that, but the fabric is also highly odour-resistant.

Whereas cotton sucks moisture up away from the body, offering a food source for micro-bacteria and generating body odour, wool naturally absorbs and releases moisture.

As well as high-risk services personnel, it is possible that Merino may be able to offer the versatile product to other professionals such as those in the hydro-electric, oil, steel and car industries.

To find out more about Andy Caughey and Merino Armadillo visit