3DP Applications

Custom 3D printed cycling helmet exceeds safety criteria

Jabil Inc. (NYSE: JBL) has teamed up with KAV Sports to make customized, made-to-order cycling helmets that are more comfortable and safer. These helmets will be made using custom-engineered materials and additive manufacturing. The KAV Portola helmet, which was named by Time Magazine as one of the “greatest innovations of 2022,” is fashioned from a proprietary nylon carbon-fiber material developed by Jabil to fulfill stringent performance and aesthetic criteria.

Whitman Kwok, founder and CEO of KAV Sports said the project’s aim is to save lives. KAV Sports wanted to design a better-fitting helmet people would like to wear. In order for customers to enjoy the benefits of customization, KAV had to overcome material and production limits. “Jabil knocked it out of the park by engineering a custom material that met stringent criteria and could be manufactured using 3D printing to create something really unique and special for the helmet industry,” said Kwok.

The KAV Sports 3D printed cycling helmet. Photo via Jabil.
The KAV Sports 3D printed cycling helmet. Photo via Jabil.

Developing the Ideal Fit

Traditional bike helmets are made of injection-molded, expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam and come in one to three sizes, which aren’t enough to fit a wide range of head sizes and shapes. In addition, standard helmets lack stability, durability, and comfort.

KAV wanted a material as light as EPS, but it also had to work well in temperatures from -15 degrees Celsius to above 60 degrees Celsius. Engineers at KAV looked into more than 20 commercially available materials, but none of them met the company’s requirements for being able to absorb high-speed impacts and stay stable in bad weather.

KAV enlisted Jabil’s assistance in developing a material that was rigid and durable yet flexible enough to withstand both high and low temperatures. In addition to being better at absorbing energy, the material needed better adhesion between its layers for consistent performance and a more pleasing look. In less than nine months, a group of additive manufacturing engineers, chemists, materials scientists, and production specialists at Jabil’s Materials Innovation Center in Minnesota came up with a brand-new, custom material that met all of KAV’s needs.

Putting Polymer Science First

To reach this benchmark, Jabil implemented extensive advancements in material formulation, compound development, material systems integration, and ISO 9001 accreditation for its Quality management system. 

Matt Torosian, Jabil’s head of product management for additive manufacturing, explains, “We take a polymer science approach to developing additive materials. Jabil engineers materials that work with additive manufacturing processes in a repeatable manner to meet customer requirements and manufacture top-quality products.”

Jabil and KAV developed and tested up to thirty iterations of bespoke polymer formulas and compounds prior to establishing a proprietary nylon-carbon-fiber composite with all the required qualities. Jabil’s experience in materials processing, testing, and scalability were helpful in creating the polymer, compounding the final filament, and achieving ISO 9001 quality management system certification.

Then, KAV did the tests required by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to get certification that it was safe. When KAV introduced the Portola helmet with the new material in April 2022, the firm claimed that the device not only satisfied but also exceeded by more than 25 percent the U.S. CPSC safety criteria for impact resistance.

Enhancing the Client Experience

KAV’s own material comes in grey, black, and white, giving customers a lot of choices. Made-to-order helmets can be delivered in two to three weeks thanks to a simple custom-fitting process and 3D printing. These unique, energy-absorbing structures could not be manufactured using conventional techniques. Moreover, additive manufacturing helps KAV Sports cut production costs and waste.

As a result of its successful partnership with Jabil, KAV wants to expand its product line and market reach. To do this, it will use Jabil’s additive manufacturing expertise, worldwide additive manufacturing capacity, and wide range of supply chain capabilities.

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Featured image shows the KAV Sports 3D printed cycling helmet. Photo via Jabil.