How are bike helmets made?

How are bike helmets made?

Are you curious about the fascinating process behind the creation of bike helmets? In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how bike helmets are made. From the initial stages to the final product, we’ll explore the intricate process that goes into creating these crucial safety gears. We’ll also uncover the different materials used, delve into the manufacturing techniques employed, and discover how innovative technologies have shaped the design and construction of modern bike helmets.

Whether it’s the outer shell, impact-absorbing foam, ventilation systems, or retention systems, we’ll explore each essential component and its role in ensuring your safety on the roads.

Through this exploration, you’ll gain valuable insights into the craftsmanship, rigorous testing, and adherence to safety standards that make bike helmets effective protective gear. So, secure your helmet strap, and let’s uncover the secrets of bike helmet manufacturing!

Stage 1: The Design

The many fancy helmets you see on the market today started with an idea and a sketch. Designers create intricate helmet designs either by drawing them on a piece of paper or using computer-aided graphics. Of course, several factors guide these designers such as optimizing airflow, comfort, and overall design aesthetics. Once the sketch is completed, optical deformities have to be corrected since the sketch is done on flat paper while the helmet surface is rounded.

However, in some advanced helmet production industries, the designs and drawings are fully computerized. They are also transferred to the shell mold using Computer numerical control (CNC) software hence no resulting errors.

Stage 2: The Helmet Shell Manufacture

After the design is printed on a polymer sheet, the sheet is then heated at a temperature of 65 degrees centigrade, just enough to make it flexible without melting, and then embedded in the helmet shell mold. The mold then lifts the sheet and suctions it to fill all the cavities of the mold, thereby accurately taking its shape.

After cooling down and hardening, the shells are then cut and removed from the mold. Next, they create vents by cutting through the hardened polymer shell using a hot wire. Note that these vents were already pre-formed during the shell molding process. The cutting tool, however, must be hot to cut them neatly.

After that, the excess polymer is trimmed off leaving behind a neat and true-to-size polymer helmet shell. The edges are also sanded for an even surface. In some factories, the excess polymer is trimmed off using a hot wire which leaves behind a smooth and more precise surface hence no need for sanding. The same process applies even with other shell materials such as carbon fiber and fiberglass.

The Helmet Shell Manufacture

Stage 3: The Foam Interior

Most helmet foam is made of polystyrene. The process starts with polystyrene beads that are shredded into fine granules. These granules are then fed into an expander, which increases the volume of the granules evenly by stirring them with an agitator while steaming them. After expanding the granules uniformly, they are now ready to be filled into the helmet molds. A press closes for around 6 minutes which is the time it takes to mold the foam pieces.

The polystyrene particles are fused with steam before being fed into the molds and later quickly cooled with water. That ensures the particles are strongly welded to one another to form a compact helmet foam. Note that different helmet shapes will have different foam molds.

Next, the vent openings are made using a hot iron, depending on the helmet model. Just as with the shells, these foam vents are also pre-cast during molding. The hot iron just opens them up. Some will be used as ventilation channels while others are openings for attaching helmet accessories.

Stage 4: Adjustment Pads

Adjustment pads are simply cut with a press-powered stamper. These pads are held in with Velcro to allow easy adjustment of the helmets. That way, you can always change the foam pads of your bike helmet anytime you need a better fit or additional comfort.

Stage 5: Inserting the Straps

Unlike the shell and foam which are manufactured in the helmet factory, the straps are bought from an external straps factory. These straps are then fixed manually. It’s a quick process that takes about a minute per helmet. I’m sure you might also have had to remove and re-insert your helmet straps at some point.

Stage 6: Joining The Shell and Foam

After the straps have been fixed, the shell and foam are joined together and solidly secured with an adhesive. At this point, the helmet is ready for packaging and use.

Other Additions

With the ever-increasing technology, modern helmets have come a long way in terms of design and functionality. In addition to the essential straps that secure the helmet to your head, below are some common additions and features you may find in modern helmets:

  • Fit adjustment systems: For a more secure and comfortable fit, modern helmets often feature adjustable fit systems such as a dial or mechanism that allows you to customize the helmet’s snugness around your head. This feature helps achieve a personalized fit, enhancing comfort and safety.
  • Visors: These can be integrated into the shell or be detachable visors. Visors provide shade from sunlight, reduce glare, and protect your eyes from elements like rain, dust, and branches. They serve as an extra layer of protection and improve visibility during different weather conditions.
  • Lights: In an effort to enhance visibility and safety, some helmets now come with integrated LED lights. These built-in lights help improve visibility to motorists and other cyclists, especially during low-light conditions or at night. Other helmets have an option to add lights as an accessory. However, you must ensure your helmet model is compatible with your choice of lights before purchase.
  • Camera or accessory mounts: With the current rise in Vlogging and video sharing, modern helmets feature mounting points or accessory attachments that allow you to attach action cameras or other accessories securely. This feature enables you to capture your rides or add extra functionalities to your helmet, like lights or communication devices.
  • Reflective elements: Reflective accents or strips on helmets increase visibility, particularly in low-light conditions. Manufacturers now incorporate them on the shell. You could also add your own after purchase. By reflecting light back to its source, these elements enhance your presence on the road, improving safety during day and night rides.

Advanced and Innovative Technology

Advanced and Innovative Technology

Advanced technologies and innovative approaches in helmet manufacturing continue to push the boundaries of safety, comfort, and performance. They reflect the industry’s commitment to ongoing research and development to provide cyclists with the best possible protection during their rides. These technologies include:

MIPS technology

MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) is a revolutionary technology designed to provide additional protection against certain types of rotational forces during impacts. It consists of a low-friction layer inside the helmet that allows for slight rotational movement, mitigating rotational forces that can lead to brain injuries.

The MIPS layer allows the helmet to rotate slightly relative to the head during an angled impact, simulating the brain’s cerebrospinal fluid, which serves as a natural protective mechanism against rotational forces. By reducing rotational forces transmitted to the brain, MIPS aims to enhance helmet safety.

WaveCel

Developed by Bontrager, WaveCel is a proprietary technology that offers advanced protection against both linear and rotational forces. It involves a collapsible cellular material inside the helmet that absorbs and disperses energy during impacts. Think of it as another approach similar to MIPS technology but both take different approaches to addressing rotational forces during impacts.

Koroyd

Koroyd is a material consisting of a matrix of small, co-polymer tubes that crumple on impact, effectively absorbing and dissipating energy. This material used in helmet construction provides enhanced impact protection while also allowing for increased airflow and improved ventilation. This is yet another approach similar to MIPS and WaveCel.

Aerodynamics

This mostly applies to speed racing bike helmets. Helmet manufacturers use wind tunnel testing and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations to optimize helmet shapes for improved aerodynamics. By carefully designing the helmet’s shape and ventilation systems, they can reduce drag and enhance overall performance during cycling.

Smart Helmet Technology

Some helmets incorporate smart features such as built-in sensors, accelerometers, and Bluetooth connectivity. These technologies enable functions like crash detection, real-time monitoring of speed and location, and integration with cycling apps or communication devices for a connected riding experience.

3D Printing

The advent of 3D printing has allowed for more customized and precise helmet designs. This technology enables the creation of complex internal structures, improved airflow systems, and personalized fit options based on individual head shapes and sizes.

Nanotechnology and Materials

Advances in nanotechnology have contributed to the development of new materials with enhanced properties, such as improved strength, impact resistance, and weight reduction. Nanomaterials, such as carbon nanotubes or graphene, are being explored for potential applications in helmet manufacturing to create lighter, stronger, and more durable helmets.

Helmet Testing and Adherence to Safety Standards

One in every 500 helmets is randomly picked to undergo destructive conformity testing before certification to guarantee their safety. During testing, the helmet drops vertically onto a piece of steel at a pre-determined speed. This is usually more severe than how you would naturally collide with an object in case of an accident. The aim is to see how well the helmet would protect your head upon impact.

The results of the conformity test are then recorded and if the helmet conforms to the set standards, a certificate of safety compliance is issued. Other tests are done on the individual helmet materials as well to ascertain their quality and consequently, the relevant certifications issued. For this reason, we always recommend purchasing helmets with proper certifications to guarantee your safety.

Take Home Points

So how are bike helmets made? We’ve learned that creating a bike helmet is a meticulous process that involves a combination of engineering, innovative materials, and a strong commitment to safety. Engineers, designers, and experts in the field come together to create a helmet that not only meets functional requirements but also considers aesthetics and user experience.

From the selection of high-quality materials to the precision molding of the outer shell, every step in the manufacturing process is carefully executed to ensure optimal protection. The impact-absorbing foam, ventilation systems, and retention systems also play crucial roles in maximizing safety and comfort.

Manufacturers also employ advanced techniques and technologies to create helmets that meet stringent safety standards. Rigorous testing, including impact simulations and quality control checks, ensures that each helmet offers reliable protection for riders.

By understanding the intricate process behind bike helmet manufacturing, you can appreciate the thought and craftsmanship that goes into creating this vital safety gear. So, as you gear up and hit the road, wear your helmet with confidence, knowing that it has been meticulously crafted to protect you when it matters most.

 

4 thoughts on “How are bike helmets made?”

  1. I’ve always wondered how these helmets are made. So if I’m understanding this correctly, there are different materials used for the shell? I just figured they were all made of the same thing. By any chance, do you know if any of them are made of kevlar? That’s what modern military helmets are made of and I’ve been wondering who else is using it for their headgear. I imagine it would be an expensive option and probably not suitable for just anyone’s budget. But for those who could afford the best there is, I would think someone would be offering it.

    Mark

    Reply
    • Hi, Mark, and thank you.

      Thank you for your kind words.

      Yes, Kevlar is used too. And more than that, we already had an article about that! You can see it here.

      It’s great to hear about the benefit of the article, too.

      Don’t hesitate to contact me to help you with anything else or if you have any questions.

      Reply
  2. What an intriguing read! It’s often easy to overlook the meticulous craftsmanship that goes into everyday safety equipment, like bike helmets. Because of this article I was able to understand how helmets are made I never had a clue before. This article provides an insightful peek behind the scenes of helmet production. Understanding the materials, design, and testing processes involved in making bike helmets not only deepens our appreciation for them but also emphasizes the critical role they play in safeguarding riders. The pictures of the helmets give a thorough reflection of what you are reading. Safety should always come first, and knowing the dedication and precision that go into crafting these protective gears gives me even more confidence while cycling.

     Kudos for shedding light on this important topic!

    Reply
    • Hi, Tashaj2, and thank you.

      Thank you for your kind words.

      It’s great to hear about the benefit of the article, too.

      Don’t hesitate to contact me to help you with anything else or if you have any questions.

      Reply

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