Hexo Helmets, a London-based technology start-up, has announced the commercial availability of its custom 3D printed bicycle helmets.
Made from Polyamide 11 using SLS, the helmets incorporate honeycomb structures designed with the cyclists head shape, to create the most lightweight, and protective headgear. According to Jamie Cook, founder of Hexo Helmets, “Foam’s pressure response is limited. There are only a few variables to play with: it’s quite basic in that sense.”
“We’re 60 years down the road with foam helmets – and even though they’re only 30% efficient at absorbing energy, we’ve pretty much done everything we can do.”
“With 3D printing, we’re starting on a new road which has got incredible opportunities for further optimization, design, and change.”
Honeycomb structured helmets
Cook began developing Hexo Helmets during his time at University College London (UCL). Under the supervision of Professor Mark Miodownik, a material scientist, Cook saw that most design methods for energy absorption are based on a flat contact area, rather than a curved surface. Furthermore, materials such as EPS used in traditional helmets hardens on impact.
As an active athlete, Cook, who participated in the last year’s World Rowing Under 23 Championships, continued his research at the University of Oxford. While training for his third Boat Race, he found that, “Every design method for energy absorption assumes that the contact area is constant – but that’s not the case for a curved surface.” Thus, came the concept for a design which fits unique curvatures of the head.
After this realization, Cook turned to additive manufacturing, a method which could produce the insulated curved honeycomb structures without distorting the mechanical properties of renewable raw materials such Polyamide 11, made from castor oil.
“Cellular structures have the highest crush strength to weight ratio. That’s a great mechanical property when you’re trying to make a bicycle helmet – which needs to be both safe and lightweight.”
3D printed helmets
Understanding that not all heads are equal, Hexo helmets are designed around the buyer’s specific head measurements. Using the Hexo helmets scanning app, an accurate 30,000-point 3D mesh is generated, from which the helmet is constructed.
Similarly, the SpeedFlex Precision Diamond football helmet, created by Carbon’s new system, L1 printer, incorporates an aerodynamic cell-like structure for impact resistance. Prior to this, researchers from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory began exploring additively manufactured microstructures capable of unique physical properties to produce a new type of helmet.
Hexo helmets can be pre-ordered through a £50 deposit on the £349 (about US$456) retail price.
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Featured image shows 3D printed Hexo helmets. Photo via Hexo Helmet.