April 8, 2014
Helmet Innovation #1 – Loving the Crumple Zone
A modern sports helmet is a relatively simple thing consisting of a tough shell, an inner liner of EPS (expanded polystyrene) and straps. It is the little things, however, that can make that simple three-piece combo perform better and look better. In a Nutcase helmet it’s not all about looks, though graphics, fit, and style are a big part of the focus. In the latest generation of helmets, Gen 3, a very specific yet unseen feature gives the helmet the ability to be slightly sleeker, yet tweaked for safety.
That little thing is underneath the tough outer shell, carved into the helmet’s inner EPS liner. The function of an EPS liner in a helmet is to absorb the big-time energy that can be released when a head and a helmet takes an impact. The innovation to Nutcase Gen 3 is the use of ‘channels’ in the EPS, which reduce weight while they add energy-absorbing pockets to the liner.
“We ‘tuned’ the helmet with these channels to optimize the performance,” said Brian Sidwell, a product development engineer who worked on the Gen 3. Sidwell said that in helmet design there’s always a fine balance between the weight and profile (everyone wants ‘thinner’) and the protection. Gen 3 helmets succeed at a balance between looking great and working effectively. “It is similar to the crumple zone in the bumper of a car,” Sidwell said. “Channeling optimizes the weight and reduces the mass…and does a better job of attenuating energy.”