Carbon just made highlights all over the planet with its new L1 system and upcoming 3D printed football helmets (just in time for the Superbowl). Helmets could be the next battleground for 3D printed consumer products, as Hexo Helmets just announced a new 3D printed custom bicycle helmet produced using powder bed fusion (laser sintering) technology. This time the helmet is made using laser sintering and focuses more on customization rather than mass production. But the results are similar: better performance through geometry.
Custom made for your head
Heralded as the “World’s first custom made bike helmet”, every Hexo helmet is a one-off, made to the precise dimensions and curvature of your head, based on a 30,000-point scan accurate to the nearest micron – less than the width of a hair.
Much like the Carbon football helmet, it seeks to improve protection by leveraging geometry. Instead of using foam, which is great for packaging or insulation, but not protecting your head, Hexo’s patent-pending inner structure, designed at the University of Oxford, actively controls impacts 68% more effectively. The 3D printed structure also provides better aerodynamics (7 seconds faster than the competition at 40 km TT) and has 8x better heat conductivity than foam.
“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,” says founder Jamie Cook. “With 3D printing, we’re starting on a new road which has got incredible opportunities for further optimization, design and change. What we’re developing now is a real synergy between material science, manufacturing and technology – coming together to unlock things that were never possible before.”
3D printed from start to finish
Whether it’s club colors or a personal mark, users can add the details that truly make their own. Hexo Helmets takes your 3D data through a 3D scan and use selective laser sintering (SLS) to fuse a unique honeycomb structure that’s made from 100% renewable raw materials.
Hexo began at University College London (UCL). Founder Jamie Cook, under the supervision of leading material scientist Prof Mark Miodownik, started his investigation into materials and structures. “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,” he explains.
An international athlete, rowing in the U23 World Championships, Jamie’s R&D continued at the University of Oxford. Deep into winter training camp for his third Boat Race, something clicked: “Every design method for energy absorption assumes that the contact area is constant – but that’s not the case for a curved surface.”
“We need to design for the head’s unique curvature. The only way to make a curved honeycomb structure without distorting the mechanical properties is by 3D printing,” Cook concludes.