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Cool New Motorcycle Helmet Technology

by Mike Weaver

December 25, 2012

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Donate A small company in California, 6D Helmets, has unveiled some interesting new technologies in motorcycle helmets. As a long time dirt and street motorcyclist, this caught my attention. Let’s take a look at their new tech and how it works after the break.

I learned of this new technology from a Gizmodo article by Wes Siler. Helmets for motorcycles (well, most any impact helmet for motorsports) have basically been unchanged in terms of their safety design for quite a while. They consist of a hard shell with expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) inner portion. The shell and EPS combine to crush under impact loads to reduce the acceleration experienced by the user’s head during a crash. This technology works well for high-speed, high energy impacts, but has a number of problems.

One problem is that of low-speed impacts. The EPS is necessarily rigid to provide the needed resistance to crushing to handle high-speed impacts. This results in higher than desired accelerations being delivered to the brain/head during a low-speed impact (like falling over while stopped).

Another, even more significant, problem is one of torque. When a rider hits the ground, they are often moving not just vertically (the fall) but also horizontally (due to the bike). When a conventional helmet touches down, often friction between the helmet and the ground will violently twist the head of the rider. This can cause very serious injuries and death, either due to neck injuries or torsion of the brain/brain stem within the skull.

The new helmet addresses both of these gaps with a clever use of gel dampers sandwiched between two inner shell layers.

The dampers provide compression resistance to fill the gap in low speed impacts. More sigificantly, they allow the two shell layers to spin relative to each other. This allows the outer shell to spin at a different rate than the inner shell, reducing the torque delivered to the rider’s head.

6D isn’t the only company working on better safety, Lazer helmets are available with a “SuperSkin” technology which allows the outer shell to deform in such a way as to reduce the torque delivered to the head.

I’m optimistic that such advances will help reduce rider injuries and allow those of us who love the two wheels to keep on enjoying them more safely. Have a wonderful holiday, for all who celebrate!

by Mike Weaver

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