Folding Helmet – Background



Helmets are no new invention. The image above shows the production line of helmets used in WW2 showcasing the different stages the M16 helmets went thru during production. While there is sufficient evidence to prove that helmets are indispensable, they do not guarantee protection from head injuries or concussions. No helmet is 100% foolproof. However, they are a preventive measure, minimizing injuries and saving the lives of riders.

The first cycling-specific helmets emerged at the beginning of the 20th century. They started out as a ring of leather with a wool ring above, then evolved to a ring of leather around the head and padded strips of leather running along the head and across. These “hairnet” helmets weren’t the greatest in protection, but they were better than nothing and simple and soft enough that they could be folded up.

In the 1970s and 80s, safety testing and new materials and designs led to today’s modern helmets – those using a hard outer shell and foam-like inner material. This kept the helmets from being foldable and compact, with early ones being downright bulky, but they protected much better.


The desire for compact, modern-style helmets took a back seat to safety until 1997, when the Snapit helmet, by Motorika, received its U.S. CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) clearance, a first for a folding helmet, and hit the market. The Snapit featured a clamshell-type design where one half collapsed into the other to reduce its size to half. The design worked, but its awful looks and weight (454 grams) scared away most potential buyers. Motorika offered the helmet for a few years before laying it to permanent rest as an overall flop.

Despite the lack of success experienced by Motorika, the idea of a collapsible helmet stuck in product engineers’ minds, and they continued to pursue them, not as novelty or marketing gimmicks and not as huge money grabs, but because the market was calling for it. That persistence and today’s technology has allowed product designers to create multiple styles of collapsing and folding helmets, some of which may achieve mainstream market success. To put it simply, foldable, and collapsible helmets came from both market demand and product engineers’ imaginations.


Additive Manufacturing (AM) is quickly becoming the tour-de-force in our industrial progression. It has emerged as a powerful tool in recent years and is opening entire new industries. Utilizing 3D printing and other state-of-the-art technologies, AM not only enables smart manufacturing but also providing for customized products at scale: 

  • AM reduces product development lead times and provides geometric freedom, part consolidation, and design individuality.
  • AM can account for complexities because of its ability to create geometries and designs that cannot be created using conventional subtractive manufacturing methods.

However, the emergence of this new technology has imposed new challenges on the engineer:

  • behavior of the materials used in manufacturing additively manufactured parts where both the part and the material are composed simultaneously.
  • consistency from one manufacturing run to another, the amount of post-processing required before printed items can be used, and
  • the cost of the raw materials the printers use

Effective collaboration between Engineering and Manufacturing is a critical step to remaining competitive in the era of Industry 4.0 and IoT, and its Human/Customer Centric evolution to Industry 5.0.


We considered the following aspects for the folding helmet when deciding on additive manufacturing:

  1. Material Selection: When designing for additive manufacturing, it is important to consider the behavior of the materials used in manufacturing additively manufactured parts where both the part and the material are composed simultaneously. The material selection should take into account the physical and mechanical properties required for the helmet design, such as impact resistance, durability, and weight. Additionally, the cost and availability of the materials should also be considered.
  2. Geometric Freedom: Additive manufacturing provides geometric freedom, which allows for more intricate and complex designs that cannot be created using conventional subtractive manufacturing methods. Designers can take advantage of this freedom to create helmets with optimized shapes that provide better protection, comfort, and fit.
  3. Design for Manufacturability: Design for manufacturability (DFM) is an important consideration when designing for additive manufacturing. DFM involves designing products in a way that simplifies the manufacturing process, reduces production costs, and minimizes waste. It is important to consider the limitations of the specific additive manufacturing technology being used and design parts that can be printed efficiently and with minimal post-processing.
  4. Quality Control: Consistency from one manufacturing run to another is important to ensure that the final product meets the required specifications. Effective quality control measures should be put in place to ensure that each printed helmet meets the required standards. This can involve implementing process control measures and performing regular testing and inspection of the printed parts.
  5. Post-processing: Depending on the additive manufacturing technology being used, printed items may require post-processing before they can be used. The amount of post-processing required should be minimized to reduce manufacturing time and costs. Designers should consider the post-processing requirements when designing the helmet and design parts that require minimal post-processing.
  6. Human/Customer Centric Design: Additive manufacturing allows for customized products at scale, which can be used to create helmets that are tailored to the specific needs of the user. Designers should consider the end user when designing the helmet and create designs that provide optimal protection, comfort, and fit. This can involve using digital scanning technologies to create custom-fit helmets or designing helmets with adjustable components.


Numorpho Cybernetic Systems is firmly committed to enabling automation in Industry 4.0/5.0 by engineering, coordinating and harmonizing processes across the value chain of product development, and validating them by building smart and connected products and services.

NI+IN UCHIL Founder, CEO & Technical Evangelist


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