Thermoformed 3D designs
Arc'teryx began as a basement operation in Canada—humble beginnings for the launch of many revolutionary outdoor technologies and designs.
Pre-nineties, climbing harnesses were traditionally cut flat and sewn. There was no dimension to patterns or how they fit against the body. Inspired by an experimental curved cargo strap for shouldering a bicycle, a 360° harness solution was conceived. Experiments in foam, lamination and heat began.
Using a high tech pizza oven and a butchered Ikea wastebasket as a mold, temperatures, processes, materials and pressures went through an intense series of combinations and experimentation. Several creative minds were drawn in, fuelled by passion, intensity and collaboration and from that Vapour™ Technology was born—the first three dimensional outdoor equipment design that used multi-dimensional foam, high temperatures and rapid cooling to emulate the human form.
Translation of the new design into reliable reproduction required more brainstorming. Trial and error and the invention of specialized equipment eventually lead to success and ideas for other applications of thermoformed technology. The first test was suspension systems on backpacks, with the idea to soften load-bearing frames. Baking various thicknesses of foam into true form fitting shapes introduced curvature into exceptionally comfortable hip belts that were also lighter in weight. Shoulder straps followed and with them, the possibility of incremental tapering, sophisticated shaping and silhouette that distinguished the Bora series of backpacks.
Thermoformed 3D design was the original Arc'teryx breakthrough, made possible by stepping aside from horizontal thinking and challenging assumptions – the roots and heart of all things Arc'teryx.
Lamination is the technique of manufacturing a material in multiple layers, so that the composite material achieves improved strength, stability, appearance or other properties from the use of differing materials. A laminate is usually permanently assembled by heat, pressure, welding, or adhesives.
Lamination in outdoor apparel allows for seamless construction: reduced bulk, increased durability, lighter weights, clean finishes and streamlined process. Products weigh less, last longer and are more user-friendly.
Adopting lamination into hardgoods construction, unique Arc'teryx AC2 technology takes packs into another dimension, using very lightweight, durable ACT Fabric™ to create weathertight bags. Air-and-water impermeable and coated on both sides, ACT Fabric™ permits the lamination of attachment points directly onto the bag, placed as needed rather than dictated by seams.
In the beginning of hardshell designs, zippers were seen as weak points that needed a huge amount of reinforcement to achieve both weatherproof and structural integrity. Bulky zipper flaps -unsightly and excessive tabs of heavy, stitched fabric-were used as gutters to channel moisture away from these points of entry, overweight with stitching and reinforcement.
After ten years of thought, the Arc'teryx R&D team proposed the urethane coated, long-lasting and smooth sliding WaterTight™ zipper as a solution. Months of testing, affixing and evaluating different options were spent before installation was perfected, but eventually a solution was found and the zipper was successfully introduced into Arc'teryx apparel.
Sleek, quiet, understated yet highly technical, the new zipper presented as a simple line. No flaps. No bulk. A clean construction that matched the look of the rest of the garment and was structurally sound.
Never seen before, the WaterTight™ zipper was a big departure from convention that has become the industry standard—invented by Arc'teryx.
Any product is only as good as the strength of its components. The enduring Arc'teryx mandate is to build the lightest, most durable, highest performing equipment possible. To accomplish this, early in its history the brand formed partnerships with textile manufacturers. Twenty odd years later, these partnerships help maintain the integrity of Arc'teryx products.
One value of long-standing industry relationships is the opportunity to be involved in the research and development of very specialized textiles, plus to be able to set the standards for the quality expected by Arc'teryx. For its waterproof/breathable apparel, Arc'teryx has worked closely with W.L. Gore to create progressive technologies that meet uncompromising user needs. Feedback from athletes and staff provides situational examples that lead to refinements or even new directions for face fabrics, membrane technology, and construction methods. N80p-X, for example, is a face fabric developed in response to the Arc'teryx need for an exceptionally abrasion resistant surface that can withstand daily use by outdoor professionals.
In partnership with Polartec®, the development of softshells (ie Gamma series) came about through Arc'teryx exploring the possibility of laminating complimentary woven fabrics together to create a textile that was highly breathable, wind resistant and tough. What the team came up with was a fusion of stretch woven exterior with a soft wicking interior: incredibly mobile, weather resistant and breathable, a radical injection into contemporary layering. The revolutionary new fabric: Polartec® Power Shield®. The entirely new product category: Softshells.
Arc'teryx designs are functional, disciplined answers to unforgiving environments. Research and development of premium textiles is a hands-on process, at times lengthy, but one with great and lasting rewards.