A recent survey revealed that five per cent of motorcyclists have problems in finding a perfect fitting crash helmet. An even higher percentage resign themselves to buy one that is slightly too large or slightly too small.
Mass production cannot solve this issue and only partial personalisation can be done by playing with different padding thicknesses. A new manufacturing philosophy is needed to produce a fully customised helmet, perfectly formed to the geometrical features of individual riders.
Now, the European project Custom-Fit, funded by 6th framework program, offers a solution. It enables fully personalised consumer goods, such as crash helmets, to be made cost effectively.
The Custom-Fit process works by capturing the geometrical characteristics of the consumer’s body using a 3D scanner. Then, specialised CAD software allows individual features to be added. Finally, the customised part is manufactured with additive techniques.
In the case of the helmet, the rider’s head shape is first scanned with a laser scanner developed by one of the Custom-Fit partners Human Solutions. The scanned surface model represents the reference point from where adaptaptations are made on a standard design, resulting in a helmet design perfectly shaped to the rider’s head (carried out with a specialised CAD tool from the project partner Delcam).
Finally the helmet (the customised part of it, the liner) is manufactured using a new rapid manufacturing machine (a powder printing process tool developed by DeMonfort University) which builds a real 3D model from the design, layer by layer at a very high production rate, sintering polymeric powders specifically selected for the new process.
Five samples of customised helmets have already been made for five professional motorbike test riders. The next step will be to perform ‘long ride’ tests in order to verify the real improvement in comfort perceived by riders. Objective measurements will also be made by putting pressure sensors between helmet and head to measure the actual pressure exerted by the helmet on the head.
Other issues will also be evaluated and recorded, such as noise levels and the effectivenesss of air flow channels to refresh riders during long rides.