March 21, 2023
Jabil Inc. has teamed with KAV Sports on made-to-order, personalized bicycle helmets that offer a fit for comfort and protection using custom engineered materials and additive manufacturing. Recognized by Time Magazine as one of the “best inventions of 2022,” the KAV Portola helmet is made from custom nylon carbon-fiber material engineered by Jabil to meet standards for performance and aesthetics, the company notes.
“To fulfill our mission of saving lives, we needed to produce a better-fitting helmet that people would want to wear,” says Whitman Kwok, founder and CEO of KAV Sports. “For consumers to experience the benefits of customization, we had to overcome limitations in materials and manufacturing. Jabil knocked it out of the park by engineering a custom material that met stringent criteria and could be manufactured using 3D printing to create something really unique and special for the helmet industry.”
Innovating the Right Fit
Traditional bike helmets are made from injection-molded, expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam and typically come in one to three sizes, so they do not always fit various head sizes and shapes. Additionally, standard have limits in stability, durability, and comfort.
KAV wanted a material as light as EPS, so the company was seeking performance in temperatures ranging from -15 degrees to over 60 degrees C. KAV engineers evaluated more than 20 off-the-shelf materials. All of those materials failed to meet the company’s criteria for absorbing high-velocity impacts or providing stability under extreme environmental conditions.
KAV reached out to Jabil to create a custom material stiff and strong yet flexible enough to accommodate high and low temperatures. In addition to providing energy absorption, the material needed to increase layer-to-layer adhesion for consistent performance, as well as improved look and feel. A team of additive manufacturing engineers, chemists, materials scientists and production experts at Jabil’s Materials Innovation Center in Minnesota created a completely new and customized material in 9 months that met all KAV’s expectations.
Prioritizing Polymer Science
Jabil applied innovations in materials formulation, compound development, materials systems integration and ISO 9001 Quality Management System certification.
“We take a polymer science approach to developing additive materials,” says Matt Torosian, director, product management for additive manufacturing at Jabil. “Jabil engineers materials that work with additive manufacturing processes in a repeatable manner to meet customer requirements and manufacture top-quality products.”
Jabil and KAV developed and tested nearly 30 iterations of custom polymer formulations and compounds before creating the nylon carbon-fiber composite that embodied all necessary properties. Jabil’s expertise and experience in materials processing, testing and scaling helped formulate the polymer, compounding the final filament and attaining ISO 9001 Quality Management System certification.
KAV then completed validation testing to achieve certification in accordance with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). When KAV launched the Portola helmet featuring the new material in April 2022, the company asserted that the product exceeded U.S. CPSC safety standards for impact resistance by more than 25%.
KAV’s custom material is available in gray, black and white colors to offer flexible choices while a simple custom-fitting process and the use of 3D printing enable 2-to-3-week delivery of made-to-order helmets.
Thanks to its collaboration with Jabil, KAV is planning to expand its product portfolio and market reach by leveraging Jabil’s additive manufacturing capacity and supply chain capabilities.
For more details, read the KAV and Jabil Case Study.
Sources: Press materials received from the company and additional information gleaned from the company’s website.
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