12,000 Reasons to Use Computers to Optimize Protection
Our last post "Why spend more on superior materials?" discussed raw materials and how the flexibility (pun intended) of thermoplastic polyurethanes provide the foundation for better protective gear. The challenge was how to retain the energy-absorbing benefits of TPU without any of the weight penalties. The archetypal technique is to utilize air as a spring in the form of individual cones, cylinders, or bladders. Finite Element Analysis (FEA) informed our early research around materials and mechanical structures during our formative years of research and development.
However, our CTO Dave quickly realized the benefits of embracing the use of computational power in helmet design. The traditional methodology of sprinkling air bladders evenly across the helmet is rudimentary at best. It doesn't accommodate the differences in impact locations and the distributions of their corresponding impact forces. For instance, falling backward onto the occiput imparts different levels of force than getting a shoulder across the temporal region or taking a slap shot to the cage. Manually building, modeling, and testing prototypes and optimizing for weight, energy absorption, and helmet offsets is a bit like playing a game of multi-dimensional whack a mole.
Instead, Dave created a minimum tessellation program Cerebro that optimizes the impact locations on our hockey helmet and creates over 12,000 energy-absorbing nodes systematically placed to maximize protection while minimizing weight. The resulting energy management layer is a continuous gradient of protection with an average density of .15 g/cm^3. The foams used in helmets tend to skew on the denser side of the .09 to .21 g/cm^3 available foams. Given that we obviated the need for bolts and other hardware, we're able to achieve a helmet that's 10-20% lighter than a typical helmet as a nice by-product of improved protection. Utilizing servers that can process over 100,000 MIPS (millions of instructions per second) complements the talents of our in-house propeller headed engineers.
Next post, lasers, solenoids, and reinventing impact rigs because you can't improve performance if you don't measure it.