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Reflective fabric increases visibility

Mechanical engineer Harry Shamir has developed a new product designed to make boats more visible to radar. Shamir says his RadEcho polyester fabric has an electrically conductive coating that will reflect a radar beam back to its source from almost any angle.

“The technology we created enables the coating of each and every fiber,” says Shamir, 66, whose Echo Co. is based in Plymouth, Mass. “From fiber to fiber there is no melding, no bonding, no connection.”

The total reflectivity of the fabric is made up of the sum of each reflective fiber, according to Shamir. This means that the aggregate of cylindrical fibers can reflect back a radar beam at much greater angles than a conventional corner reflector, he notes. Shamir says RadEcho fabric will reflect regardless of a boat’s angle of heel.

The material should be located at the highest point on the boat to increase its visibility to radar, Shamir says. A mast covered in the fabric would be visible from all sides, he says, as though it were a flat piece of metal of the same width and height aimed at the radar source. Shamir also suggests that the material could be used like wallpaper on the outside of a boat’s superstructure, bonded or sewn to sails and canvas enclosures, or sewn to a life raft’s canopy.

“The color is silvery, so it’s not unappealing visually,” he says.

RadEcho could be made part of a boat’s laminate, as well, Shamir continues, incorporating it into the hull sides, bow, stern, even the keel to make a boat visible to radar if it should capsize.

“It can be contoured to anything on the craft,” he says.

The material also could be used as a simple, passive backup to a transponder, adds Shamir.

RadEcho needs to be protected by plastic or polyurethane, Shamir says, because it isn’t impervious to salt water. For example, the fabric could be bonded to a mast and wrapped with a plastic sheet.

Tests have shown that about a square yard of the material will generate a large radar echo from at least two miles away, according to Shamir. Further tests are planned to determine the minimum quantity of fabric per boat, and to see how far away it remains visible to radar.

RadEcho radar reflective material went from concept to start-up business in a matter of months, says Shamir. It took much of that time — and most of the company’s money — to get the fabric right. Now his Echo Co. is looking for orders.

“I really think we have built a better mousetrap,” says Shamir. “Now we just need to find the people that have a problem with mice.”

Retail price for RadEcho radar reflective fabric is $50 per square yard, Shamir says. Wholesale prices range from $30 to $35 per square yard depending on quantity. In addition to retail customers, Shamir is looking for installers, resellers and investors.

Contact Echo Co., Plymouth, Mass. Phone: (508) 747-5803. E-mail: r_da@