Carbon and CCM Hockey are getting their heads in the game with customized 3D printed helmet liners for the NHL.
Today’s announcement may sound reminiscent of another Carbon lattice-structure 3D printed helmet liner, as last year the Digital Light Synthesis (DLS) company introduced a similar product with Riddell. There, the helmet liners are focused on football players, as the NFL certainly needs to enhance its cranial protection. Digital manufacturing offers the capability of athlete-specific design for just the right fit, putting cushioning where it’s needed most.
If there’s another sport that often comes top-of-mind when thinking of impact injury, it’s hockey. One old joke that will never fail to make me laugh a little bit is “I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out” — the sport is famous for missing teeth among other on-rink injuries.
But, like with football, hockey could do with an update to its safety equipment. In introducing today’s news, Carbon cited a 2017 Wheaton College study that noted that “thermoregulation is a critical performance variable” for athletes, and determined that seven minutes of intermittent head cooling was sufficient to positively affect aerobic performance.
And so arose the focus for designing the new equipment:
“With optimal breathability to allow air to flow throughout the helmet, the new 3D-printed liner keeps the athlete’s head cool and hockey sense heightened, working to improve overall performance.”
The helmet is called Super Tacks X with NEST Tech, made by CCM Hockey using Carbon’s DLS 3D printing to introduce NEST: Next Evolution Sense Technology. Key to the helmet is, of course, the lattice structuring found in the liner, which offers customized fit and comfort along with “superior breathability” and “elite protection.”
Of the elite protection aspect, they explain that the lattice structure of the liner “is precisely positioned and tuned to absorb and disperse energy from linear and rotational impacts.”
Three pro hockey players wore the custom-fit helmets for the 2020 NHL season to test it out. Austin Matthews and John Tavares of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Seth Jones of the Columbus Blue Jackets apparently had positive reviews, as the custom-fit helmets will be available for all NHL players ahead of the 2021 season.
The tech behind the helmet includes Carbon Design Engine software, which automatically generates an optimized lattice structure given parameters based on desired performance criteria and weight. Carbon explains:
“This lattice structure facilitates the absorption and dissipation of energyby aligning internal damping struts against the directions of impact that hockey players experience during play. With over 130,000 individual struts, the lattice is built so each strut is specially tuned at every point on the helmet. Increases or decreases in the stiffness of the lattice structure are enabled through precise adjustments to the thickness of each strut, allowing the lattice to absorb and disperse energy from various impacts.”
Not only will the new helmets be available for the NHL, but CCM Hockey is also planning to release a retail version for consumers next spring, “using some of the same advanced technology being made available to professional athletes.”
Now that, 3D printing, is getting your head in the game.