The biggest lie humanity has ever been told is that one size fits all. Every single one of us is different and unique, especially when it comes to the shape and size of our bodies. Bauer, a company that specializes in hockey gear, is finally taking that into account with a new partnership that will allow it produce helmets that are custom fit for every user’s head.
Enjoyment of a sport can often come down to whether or not a participant feels comfortable in the equipment they have to wear, and for a sport like hockey, there’s a lot of specialized gear needed to safely slide across a sheet of ice. Laces and straps on skates allow them to be easily adjusted to feel comfortable while still providing a secure fit, but hockey helmets are a different story. Users need to find a helmet that comes as close to fitting their head size and shape as possible, but hockey helmet selection can often be limited, and there’s not much in terms of adjustments offered for the foam liners that actually cushion the wearer’s head. You can tighten the chin strap so it doesn’t fall off, but that doesn’t make an ill-fitting helmet feel any more comfortable.
As an extension of the company’s MyBauer program, which allows hockey players to customize the look and feel of equipment like sticks and goalie pads, Bauer has teamed up with EOS, which you might remember as the company that made Wilson’s dream of an airless basketball a reality through the use of advanced 3D printing techniques.
The goal here wasn’t to create a hockey helmet that never goes flat, but one with cushioning inserts sized and shaped to perfectly contour to a specific user’s head. Before 3D printing, that wasn’t an impossible task, but the effort needed to create custom-shaped foam meant a perfectly fitted helmet would have been a very pricey bespoke creation. But now, Bauer can offer it to almost anyone willing to sit for a few minutes so a laser scanner can generate a 3D digital model of their head.
That model is used to create the custom insert using Selective Laser Sintering, where a 3D printer uses a powerful laser to burn a powdered polymer into a solid structure, layer by layer. Like Wilson’s airless basketball, the custom helmet insert ends up having a complex lattice structure that makes it as pliable as foam, but also lighter, and far more breathable. It’s superior to foam in many ways, although not as cheap (for now). Bauer’s custom 3D printed helmet costs $478, which is a few hundred dollars more than its regular adjustable helmets. So while it might not be a solution for everyone, those who’ve struggled to find a hockey helmet with a perfect fit will be glad to know that one can be manufactured specifically for them.