Monday 12th November 2018
The 3D market is growing (not the movie one with the funky glasses, the one where they make stuff innit?!). It seems we can make anything these days from a 3D blueprint, literally anything. Just searching around on Google, type in what you need, seems someone with a 3D printer will make it for you. Well, Hexr has made the bold move to produce a 3D helmet. The argument for wearing/not wearing helmets is a can of worms so it would be interesting to see the impression a 3D helmet would bring to both sides of the coin...
The world’s first custom-made 3D printed cycle helmet, Hexr, will be available to customers in 2019 with details on the product and pre-orders being revealed today. For over 40 years, the bicycle helmet has not significantly changed. Although the weight has been reduced and airflow has been improved, the core material of an EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) foam liner has remained unchanged.
However, British-based tech company Hexr is bringing a revolutionary helmet to the market, combining cutting edge-technology and material science to deliver a new standard in performance and safety. Hexr Helmets will be the world’s first custom-made, 3D printed helmet. Each helmet uses a patent-pending honeycomb structure which is 68%* better at controlling impact than foam, fits like a glove and offers elite aerodynamics.
Hexr began at University College London (UCL) when founder Jamie Cook was studying Mechanical Engineering and competing as an international rower for GB, spending several hours per day on his bike commuting to training. His professor, leading material scientist, Prof Mark Miodownik, challenged him to take a product from the everyday world and set about improving it. “I deconstructed several bike helmets in the lab. I hadn’t ever thought about it much before but once I took it apart I was perplexed that a basic material such as polystyrene foam was still so widely used in helmets” explains Cook. “Foam, as a material, is limited, particularly at absorbing energy and it has been designed for flat surface packaging. It was during my research that I 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. We needed to design a helmet for the head’s unique curvature.”
Cook took up a place to study a postgraduate at the University of Oxford, where he has spent the past three years researching and developing the Hexr helmet alongside leading academics in brain and impact mechanics.
Hexr is designed for safety from the ground up. Hexr uses a high-performance material, Polyamide 11, used in the aerospace industry. Each Hexr is designed on a patent-pending honeycomb inner structure that actively controls impacts 68% better than traditional foam.
The core unit of each Hexr is a single hexagonal cell. When strain is applied to one, it buckles and bends - softening to reduce pressure (compared to foam, which hardens at high impact). During an impact, the contact area on your helmet grows. As it does that, more Hexr cells activate. That means the energy is spread and controlled more effectively. Because Hexr spreads the energy from an impact, the peak force is dramatically reduced (compared to foam). And with that, so is your risk of traumatic brain injury.
Every head is anatomically unique, so each Hexr helmet is a one-off. The customisation starts with a scan of the rider’s head with Hexr’s scanning app on an iPad. Hexr creates an accurate 30,000-point 3D mesh in seconds. Hexr then uses algorithms developed by co-founder Henry Neilson, to generate a completely bespoke structure in real time, allowing it to fit perfectly. The Hexr is 3D printed from data that is accurate to within a hair’s breadth.
Hexr’s internal structure is made from Polyamide 11, a material that conducts heat x8 better than foam (which is an insulating material). Once that heat escapes, it’s vented out by cool air channelled beneath the outer shell. Hexr’s outer shell is sculpted with insight from TotalSim, British Cycling’s aerodynamics partner for the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. With a 200 W output at 40 km time trial, it’s been tested as 7 seconds faster than Giro Aether and Kask Protone.
Manufacturing helmets with EPS foam is adding to our environmental problems. Foam is non-biodegradable, and produced using crude oil. The Hexr inner shell is made from 100% renewable raw materials, using oil from castor beans. No inventory is ever sat on a shelf gathering dust. A Hexr helmet only exists when it’s been asked for.
Finally, 3D printing allows for customisation not seen in the helmet industry before. The shells on the Hexr helmet are interchangeable allowing the owner to change the shell based on different riding conditions.
“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. The vision of Hexr is to produce the most advanced helmet that performs better than any other in the world, helping athletes perform better and saving lives” explains Jamie.
The Hexr helmet is available for pre-order now at an RRP of £349. Customers can reserve their helmet for £50 online now. Fitting will be available at a Hexr event in London in January, Hexr couriers are available to scan throughout Greater London and at two retail partner stores. There will be a limited 500 helmets sold this year, with the first helmets shipped in March 2019. A Christmas gifting option is available through the site. A gift box will arrive before Christmas which includes details of the helmet to come, and a QR code which will display the helmet when scanned on a phone.
The Hexr Helmet process involves a free head scan, for more information on where to get your head scanned or how to purchase, please visit www.hexr.com.