This article first appeared on BikeRadar.
It started with a challenge to take an everyday object and find a way to improve it. During his mechanical engineering degree at University College London, Jamie Cook delved deep into the world of cycle helmets. He discovered that the Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) technology that’s been the standard for over 40 years, is not the ideal material for impact control. So he developed an alternative.
Continuing his research as a postgraduate at the University of Oxford, he’s spent the past three years working alongside leading academics to develop the Hexo helmet. It’s not the first helmet to be 3D-printed, but it's the first to be constructed from Polyamide 11 — a material usually used in the aerospace industry — to custom measurements for the perfect fit.
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Better impact control
Cook found that most design methods for energy absorption are based on a flat contact area, rather than a curved surface. EPS was designed for flat surface packaging, and because it is an insulator, it hardens on impact.
Polyamide 11 on the other hand is a conductor of heat. It’s made up of hexagonal cells in a honeycomb structure and spreads the energy over a larger area. The individual cells soften on impact to reduce the peak force, and with that, the risk of traumatic brain injury. The impact control of the Hexo is claimed to be 68% better than helmets constructed from EPS.
Made to measure
Not all heads are created equal. Hexo helmets are made to order and designed around the buyer’s specific head measurements, taken with a scanning app. In just two minutes, an accurate 30,000-point 3D mesh is generated, around which the helmet is constructed.
The Hexo helmet should fit like a glove, but that’s not where the huge potential ends. By creating them to order, Hexo’s waste production will be significantly lower than that of competitors. Since the helmet doesn’t exist until it’s been requested: there’s no overstock collecting dust on a shelf somewhere.
What’s more, EPS foam is not an environmentally friendly material. It’s non-biodegradable, and it’s produced using crude oil. Hexo’s inner shell is made from 100% renewable raw materials, using castor-oil.
The Hexo features interchangeable outer shells, meaning you can have multiple helmets in one, for varying ride conditions.This holds a huge amount of potential for the future, from the perspective of both performance and aesthetics.
Hexo helmet availability
The Hexo helmet will be available to buy in 2019, with only 500 being sold in the first year. They’re now available to pre-order with a £50 deposit, and will retail at £349.
Hexo is offering a Christmas Gift option as well, in case you want to reserve one for your favourite fellow-cyclist. They'll receive a gift box in time for Christmas with details about the helmet they'll receive, and a QR code which will display the helmet when scanned on a phone.
Currently it appears that they’ll only be available in the UK at this time, as measurements need to be taken in London. We’re not yet sure if or when this will be rolled out internationally, but we look forward to seeing what the future holds.