Completely to the contrary, the Force3 UnEqual is an ideal product to employ Kevlar in; it's just that, until the UnEqual V2, the Kevlar was underserved and lacking in critical support from other materials.
That isn't a rubber outer skin at all; instead, it is neoprene, and its presence performs two roles (as I've mentioned before): 1) to seal and protect the Kevlar from UV light (which would cause it to decay) and 2) to reduce damage to your shirts and jackets when an impact does happen.
There is a misunderstanding as to what role the Kevlar is serving. No, the Kevlar is not meant to stop baseballs, in much the same way that Kevlar is not meant to stop bullets. Kevlar catches bullets, and prevents penetration by taking all that assailing energy in and behind the bullet and distributing it laterally throughout its woven fibers. Of course, for best performance and durability, Kevlar fabric should be (and is) teamed with hard-cast ceramic plates – often called trauma plates – that are arranged in critical locations and present a reinforced facet to a bullet or shrapnel that will be impacting at an acute (or perpendicular) angle. The bullet or shrapnel strikes the plate, retarding it, and the Kevlar absorbs the accompanying energy, as well as catching or arresting any remaining bullet fragments that may have overwhelmed or compromised the plate.
The chief problem with hard plates of metal or ceramic in body armor is that of weight and thickness (mass). In order to prevent penetration of a bullet, unaided by an energy-absorbing material, a plate has to be inordinately thick and dense. With metals and most ceramics, as soon as you introduce rigidity, you lose elasticity or flexibility. Sure, that's great in a one-size / one-shape fits all world, but when the soft, squishy human that the item is protecting possesses such a wide-ranging variety of sizes and shapes, you'll exhaust yourself trying to accommodate them all!
We know that baseballs are not bullets. They travel at considerably lower speeds (relative), but they carry considerably greater mass. Thus, there's a whole lotta energy in an impacting baseball. So, surely we can use hard-plastic plates to begin to distribute that energy into a lateral force, but that force wants to become a compressive force, and without compressive resistance in that hard-plastic plate, it will carry the plate along with it to impact on the squishy human behind it! So what is used to create that stand-off distance – that volume – while still remaining low in density and weight, and (reasonably) resistant (or recoverable) to compression? Open-cell foam!
Common open-cell foam is only able to resist compression relative to its volume (I'm not including rigid open cell foam in this discussion, like styrofoam). Why are sofa cushions so thick? Because they are of a volume so as to prevent (most) seated humans from compressing beyond a "comfortable" boundary and feeling the hard surface beneath. Change the mass load, and you have to increase the volume. Worse yet, change the force (the velocity with which the mass is applied) load, and you have to increase the volume too! Or, you have to have something teamed with it so as to distribute the force, laterally, so as to engage the entire volume of the existing open cell foam cushion.
I just described a Wilson WestVest and a Douglas CP.
Closed-cell foams cut down the required volume considerably, since by trapping air/gas within the cells of the foam, the resistance to compression can be controlled, as can be the density. Memory foams are blends of the two – open cell and closed cell – by using synthetic compounds that themselves have closed-cell matrices (microcells) but are arranged into open-cell structures in a controlled manner. These advanced memory foams, though, need something to contain or define them. A skin of sorts! Also, that skin should be strong enough to distribute the energy laterally, else the baseball will merely impact the memory foam in the localized spot, compressing it, and not engaging enough foam to dissipate the force!
Exactly. You said it. The presence of hard-cast plastic plates is to distribute (as you said "spread out") the force laterally.
Know what else does that tremendously well? Kevlar.
The problem is that Force3 didn't consider the inclusion and combination of hard plastic plates with its Kevlar when it debuted the UnEqual V1. Force3 thought that neoprene could provide that outer skin and general structure – like a wetsuit – for the Kevlar fabric and hybrid foam to work beneath. It couldn't, and Force3 has been "paying for it" ever since in the reviews, opinions, and perspectives of users like @kylejt.
Kyle, I'm not picking on you; you've just been one of the more vocal opponents of the UnEqual line on the forum, and your arguments against it are valid and well-articulated. I just want to present that those arguments and concerns of yours and other users have been addressed... just not in an easily distinguishable way.
To explain this, we need to look at Force3's Ultimate shin guards, which I will defend to the hilt are the best shinguards on the market (and many other users here will agree). If we examine them, we'll see a hard-plastic shell, backed by a vinyl-encased, rather (and remarkably) thin body, and then completed with a removable "sponge" liner on the inside that contacts to your leg. Obviously, the pre-formed shell is there to provide the structure and shape, and to distribute the impacting force. So where's the Kevlar? It's in that vinyl & mesh -encased thin body! It is doing nearly all the energy distribution and absorption. Lastly, the mesh-encased removable foam liner acts as a "sizing layer" to provide comfortable contact between the body of the shinguard and your leg. It's making contact only in critical, necessary spots, promoting airflow and keeping bulk and weight to a minimum. Because legs are cylindrical, and don't have the wide-ranging variances of size and shape like torsos do, the pre-formed shell shapes don't have to be as varied.
Consider, though, what's one of the drawbacks of hardshell shinguards? Yup, you get "burns" or "bruises" on your umpire pants from impacting baseballs! This is the result of the extreme abrasion of the baseball leather ricocheting off the hard plastic of the shin guard and the polywool / polyester material caught between them!
Heck, I get those marks on my DriFIT golf pants if/when I kneel on concrete or hardwood floors! Ugh!
That's why putting the plastic plates inside of neoprene makes so much sense to Force3! The neoprene has to be there, regardless, to protect the Kevlar from UV light, and it gives some structure, especially when it comes to accommodating the variety of torso shapes and sizes that will be wearing it. The abrasion reduction is an added benefit!
Do understand though, the Kevlar and the hard plastic plates are working together. There is a hard-plastic "blast" plate over your heart! In fact, each of those body segments has a plastic plate in it. I'm hopeful that they're perforated, too, because they certainly don't need to be solid, or that dense actually, when the Kevlar is there to do most of the energy absorption.
Shoulders, like knees, are generally shaped the same from one human to another. They're also best protected by a dome or spheroid shape – something rather difficult to define by fabric and neoprene. Furthermore, those domes are problematic to encase in neoprene, so what's the point? So, just leave it as uncovered plastic on the shoulders. Kevlar is still within it, just like on the shinguards. What you, Kyle, are fixated on are those clavicle pieces flanking the neck. Obviously, to accommodate the arch of the shoulders, there needs to be a gap or seam (before any of you jokers point out that the WestVest Platinum doesn't have this seam-gap, I'll counter that the WestVest Gold still does, and the one-piece nature of the Platinum, sold or shipped flat, inhibits users from wearing it correctly!). That "naked" plastic plate acts as as a simple bridge or shield for that gap. There are hard plastic plates throughout the UnEqual V2 and V3!
Now, having said all that, someone could easily and justifiably ask, "Well MadMax, why don't you have an UnEqual??". Simple. While I completely endorse and admire Force3 for their products... A) I didn't have the $200+ to invest in a product that I saw being revised and improved in a short timeframe, and B) I now live and work in an extremely hot baseball environment where lightweight-ness and ventilation is an almost vital necessity. Thus, the CP on the market that satisfies both factors A and B, and is just as forward-thinking and innovative in its protection as the UnEqual...
... is a Schutt XV.