Rapid prototyping used to create bespoke helmets for Team GB
UK firm Crux Product Design has utilised innovative CAD methods, novel materials and new rapid manufacturing techniques to create bespoke track and road cycling helmets for Team GB.
The ergonomic and futuristic helmets, commissioned by UK Sport and British Cycling back in 2009, are said to offer new levels of comfort and safety, making them suitable for road, sprint, pursuit and para-cycling events.
To create them, Crux began by utilising new CAD methods and taking 3D laser scans of each individual athlete to ensure the best fit. Additive manufacturing methods were then used to turn the 3D models into rapid prototypes over night.
According to the company, the prototypes were physically used as part of the helmet fitting process; giving the athletes confidence that their helmet fit would be flawless.
In terms of materials, Crux developed a unique shell design comprising of an inner shell that was designed to fit closely to the athlete's head, and an outer shell shaped for optimum performance. In the middle lies an energy absorbing safety material that is sandwiched between both shells.
Extensive testing found that aluminium honeycomb, often used within the aerospace industry, worked well as a material for the helmet core. When combined with the unique dual shell, it was said to outperform previous designs in terms of absorbing impact energy efficiently and ensuring deceleration forces weren't transferred to the wearer.
Other materials used were polycarbonate (for the visor) and an iridium coating to ensure the rider's vision would not be impaired. The inner and outer helmet skins were made from ABS plastic to lower weight.
Dr Scott Drawer, head of research and innovation at UK Sport, said: "Our job is to ensure our athletes make it to the start line among the best prepared and most feared in the world. Britain has a wealth of expertise in science, engineering and technology and by working with companies like Crux Product Design we can tap into a much wider network of skills and abilities from other industries to ensure we are leaving no stone unturned in our pursuit of sporting excellence."
Beyond 2012, Crux says the patent pending helmets could be used in winter sports, as the materials are unaffected by cold temperatures. Production is due to begin this month.
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