Hockey is an extremely physical sport, where players are checked into sideboards and a dense puck made of vulcanized rubber is launched across the ice and into the air at dizzying speeds. To keep players as protected as possible in these circumstances, they are equipped with heaps of gear, from shin pads and elbow pads, to jock cups and neckguards. The head, of course, is protected too, with a helmet and often face guard or shield.
However, the efficacy of a helmet is directly tied to its fit, which has led to a push in recent years to create more tailored protective solutions for athletes at both professional and amateur levels. Now, Carbon and equipment company CCM Hockey have released a new hockey helmet design, which leverages 3D printing and Next Evolution Sense Technology (NEST) to offer custom-fit head protection.
“At Carbon, we are laser focused on enabling customers to bring innovative products to market that push industries forward,” said Carbon CEO Ellen Kullman. “We’re excited to partner with CCM Hockey, a leading manufacturer in hockey equipment for over a century, to produce a revolutionary hockey helmet that will change the game.”
The helmet in question, called CCM Hockey’s Super Tacks X with NEST Tech, is manufactured using Carbon’s Digital Light Synthesis (DLS) technology. The aforementioned NEST technology consists of a lattice-structured liner designed to improve breathability, comfort and protection. The helmet liner is also customized to the player’s head, providing better energy absorption and dissipation.
The helmet with 3D printed liner will be featured in the NHL’s upcoming 2021 season, which is scheduled to kick off this December. If you’re a fan of the ice sport, you may have already gotten a glimpse of the CCM Hockey helmet, as it was trialled by three players on the ice: Austin Matthews and John Tavares of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Seth Jones of the Columbus Blue Jackets. (All three reportedly only had good things to say.) But it’s not just the professional players that will have the chance to wear the new helmets: CCM revealed it will be releasing a 3D printed retail helmet for consumers in spring of 2021.
“Super Tacks X with NEST Tech is a revolutionary helmet liner technology, bringing unmatched breathability, superior fit, improved comfort and elite level protection for our athletes,” said Jeff Dalzell, Vice President of Product Creation at CCM Hockey. “We’re thrilled to be working collaboratively with Carbon to bring never-before-seen innovation to the hockey industry with this new helmet.”
The jointly developed helmet liner is designed using Carbon Design Engine software, which generates an optimized lattice structure based on performance and weight criteria input by the user. The lattice has been engineered to handle the high stresses of a hockey game by aligning internal damping struts against the directions of impact that hockey players experience. The helmet liner consists of over 130,000 individual struts, each of which is tuned in a particular way. The liner also varies stiffness in certain areas by increasing or decreasing the thickness of the structs. This, Carbon explains, allows the lattice to absorb and safely disperse energy from linear and rotational impacts.
This is not Carbon’s first foray into the world of sports, nor into the production of helmets. Last year, American sports manufacturer Riddell adopted Carbon’s L1 3D printing technology to bring the first custom 3D printed helmet liners to market. The liner, also produced using a contouring printed lattice structure, is integrated into its SpeedFlex Precision Diamond helmet for football players. A select group of NFL players were given the custom helmets to trial in 2018.