Another personalized consumer product has been launched using 3D print technology, the KAV bike helmet.
KAV, founded in 2017, is dedicated to producing sports equipment using the most advanced techniques. Their first product was a 3D printed ice hockey helmet with dimensions perfectly customized to the buyer. Now they’re on to a second product, a 3D printed personalized bike helmet.
KAV’s approach is similar to a few other startups that have realized the potential of 3D printing to produce unique items in each production run. Because each person’s body is different, there are a number of possible personalized items that can be made to perfectly match the buyer.
This is possible by obtaining the necessary measurements from the client, and this can be done in a variety of ways. Similar services use 3D scanners, smartphone apps or even paper measuring devices.
So far I’ve seen this method applied to footwear, prosthetics and jewelry, but KAV focuses on headwear for sports.
Their first product, a hockey helmet, required KAV to develop a number of technical solutions. The result was a helmet that not only fits perfectly, but also keeps your head cooler through an innovative design.
Their second product, the KAV Bike Helmet, leverages their experience in a similar way.
The resulting helmet fits perfectly, of course, but is also lighter weight than typical bike helmets, and takes up less space. This is a welcome change from the sometimes quite bulky commercial helmets on the market, as it should lower air drag.
KAV explained the bike helmet is also quite safe, as their specially formulated TPU is 3X stronger than foam, but 20% less in weight. They say they can produce helmets weighing less than 300g for every conceivable measurement set.
I asked KAV CEO Whitman Kwok about color availability for the bike helmet, and he said:
“Like the old model T, you can have any color you want as long as its black! In all seriousness, black is available. We’re working on white and grey for the initial launch. We’ll add other colors based on demand and we have experience doing custom colors from our hockey helmets so that’s something we’ll open up when we get through the initial demand for the base colors.”
How is the KAV bike helmet produced? There are three steps: measurement, model generation and finally helmet production. Let’s take a look at each of these steps.
Measurement is done in a very straightforward manner. The default method is to order a free “Measurement Kit”, which includes a number of flexible prints specially designed to capture the required dimensions. With this, a buyer simply executes the measurement procedure and sends the results back to KAV.
When the data is received by KAV it is injected into their proprietary machine learning algorithm that generates a suitable customized 3D model for the requestor. While this process is not explained in much detail, it’s likely that the machine learning algorithms tweaks a base 3D model of the helmet to create the final version.
Finally, the KAV bike helmet is produced using 3D printers. I was most curious about this step for obvious reasons, and asked Kwok what he could tell us about the production. He explained:
“The only way we can enable mass customizations was to use our own printers. This is both because of the use of proprietary software and hardware we utilize and because vertically integrating the entire business creates helmets that are cost competitive with other high end offerings. We are on on our 4th generation of FDM printers, currently modified MakerGears. Shout out to them for making a great printer here in the USA.”
Proprietary material? I asked further about the material used in the bike helmet, and Kwok explained:
“The material is proprietary. We tested everything that was a viable candidate in the open market for meeting the mechanical properties required for a high performance bike helmet. None passed, generally due to some combination of weight, durability, tensile modulus or cold/warm weather performance. Some of the early prototypes did use PETG, but that was strictly for design purposes. We’ve been testing functional prototypes with our special blend for the last month.”
The KAV bike helmet is launched on Kickstarter, where buyers can now order their own custom helmets. KAV said buyers will have 30 days to confirm “it’s the best fitting helmet they’ve ever owned,” which is quite a statement. They also provide a five-year warranty and a “Crash Protection Policy”. With this policy, a crashed helmet can be returned for a 50% discount on a followup purchase.
I’ve long felt that this style of personalized buying is where everyone will expect to be in the future: custom fit items are clearly a better and more functional option. But, at least for bike helmets, today is the future.