British start-up Hexr has an innovative approach to helmet manufacturing with its custom 3D-printed cycling helmet.
Jamie Cook, former University of Oxford PhD student and founder and CEO of Hexr, argues that the polystyrene foam used for helmets for the last 40 years isn’t actually the ideal material for helmet design.
EPS foam was designed for flat surface packaging, not rounded shapes like heads, suggests Cook, and because it’s an insulator it actually hardens on impact.
By contrast, the material used by Hexr, Polyamide 11, is a heat conductor with a hexagonal honeycomb structure, so on impact the forces are spread over a wider area and the individual cells of the structure soften, which reduces the peak force.
Hexr claims a 68 per cent better impact control than a standard helmet. Polyamide 11 is also fully renewable, using oil from castor beans, so it’s kind to the planet too.
The Hexr is a pricey proposition, but that’s because each helmet is made to measure and made to order. With the help of Hexr’s app and an iPad (or iPhone X or 11), a complete scan of your head is taken with 30,000 reference points recorded in the 3D mesh scan created.
From this, the honeycomb structure is 3D printed, so Hexr’s waste production is much lower than if it had to hold stock that may not sell.
The honeycomb structure has a removable and replaceable snap-on cover, which can be customised.
Because your data is held by Hexr, replicating the helmet is possible. Hexr has plans to expand into other helmet designs – mountain bike, canoe, ski, even motorsport – so your single scan could be used for any head protection.
On the bike the Hexr is an excellent fit and comfortable, even with minimal pads. The only niggle is the slightly coarse nature of the honeycomb, which can feel mildly scratchy.
I was impressed with the breathability and cool feel of the helmet. It’s far superior to most similar designs.
The only real problem I found was with the straps. On the large helmet the straps were on their limit of adjustment. If you are offering a bespoke fitted helmet, a one-size fits all approach to the straps is a bit off-message.
The rear cradle is minimal and easy to adjust and the fit is so good that it’s more of a base covering than an essential to the helmet’s retention.
At 368.9g for my custom lid, the Hexr isn’t the lightest, but Hexr claims it’s very aero and outperformed nearest rivals (Giro Vanquish – 10 secs faster, Kask Protone – 30 secs, POC Ventral – 31 secs, Giro Aether – 35 secs) over 40km at 35kph in a standard road riding position.
That said, it’s an extremely impressive effort from a new brand and I’m seriously excited about where Hexr can take true innovation like this in the future.
Hexr Helmet details
- Polyamide 11 has a hexagonal honeycomb structure, which means on impact the forces are spread over a wider area.
- Each helmet is made to measure and made to order with the help of Hexr’s app and iPad (or iPhone X or 11).
- The rear cradle is minimal and easy to adjust and the fit is very good, making it more of a base covering than for helmet retention.