The role of finite element analysis in the development and optimization of novel sports head protection

Head health and safety has been an emergent theme within the scientific community, with an emphasis on mild traumatic brain injury. Protective equipment, such as helmets, provide a method of reducing the forces of impact that are delivered to the brain. However, innovation in this field has been limited and up until recently, the prevalent technology in most helmets on the market consisted in foam cushions and/or inflatable bladders. In fact, in 2006, several researchers estimated that improvements in helmet technology would become limited by the inherent properties of foam materials traditionally used in protective equipment. In 2015, VICIS announced a new impact mitigation concept based on buckling a filament structure. The first production helmet, the ZERO1, used a comprehensive suite of physical tests and additive manufacturing to implement a rapid and iterative design process. Finite element modeling (FEM) was introduced during the development of ZERO1, in a way that complimented the established fast-paced protype and test method.

FEM allowed for accurate simulations in a rapid and repeatable method. In addition to the non-linear geometric and material response, the majority of components in the ZER01 are soft bodies that experience large deformation. HyperMesh and Radioss provided the stable platform to evaluate impact performance as well as part durability. This study reviews the role and implementation of FEM in VICIS's second production helmet, the ZERO1-Youth, and the progression from component-level to system-level simulations.
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