A recent survey revealed that many motorcyclists have problems in finding a perfect fitting helmet. Mass production cannot solve this issue. Today, partial personalization is done by offering the consumer the choice between with different paddings. But a new manufacturing philosophy is needed to produce a fully customised helmet, perfectly formed to the geometrical features (=head) of a user.
Research from the Custom-fit Project, funded by 6th framework program of the EU, offers a solution: fully personalised helmets at a cost effective rate. The starting point is the 3D scanning of the rider’s head shape, using a laser scanner developed by Custom fit partner Human Solutions. The scanned surface model represents the reference point from where adaptations 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 customised part of the helmet, the liner, is manufactured using a new Rapid Manufacturing machine (a Power Printing Process tool developed in the project by DeMonfort University) which builds the product layer by layer with a high productivity by sintering polymeric powders specifically selected for the new process.
The main issue with custom helmet is safety. While the custom production offer large advances with regard to comfort due to better fit, the safety prepositions of a laser sintered product are still open. To improve this factor, the customised helmets use the same amount of expanded polistyrene that is used in standard and certified helmets (this material is principally responsible for the function of shock absorption). Moreover, some special customisation of the mechanical characteristics of the customised liner should increase safety level, for example lowering the tendency of the helmet to be pulled off the head during riding.
The project has also dealt with the reorganization of service and delivery, by studying a new way to interact with customers form the moment they start the order process, where the head needs to be 'scanned', to the point in which the customised helmet is delivered. All modification to the supply chain have been studied. Initially the rider/customer will probably face an increase in price and delivery time to have a Custom Fit helmet. Nevertheless they will be rewarded by being the owner of a unique, custom-made helmet, not only more comfortable but safer as well.
Context: Custom-Fit is an industry led project to investigate the possibility of moving towards knowledge based manufacturing and customised production through integration of knowledge in Rapid Manufacturing, Information Technology and Material Science. I am serving as a scientific adviser of the project. Funded under the Sixth Framework Programme, the project involves 30 partners from around Europe. The aim is to create a fully integrated system for the design, production and supply of individualised products. It has targeted product for implementing the new technology, including motorcycle seats, helmets, implants and prosthesis.