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Flax-Based Bike Helmet Is Heavy but Safer for the Environment

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Elizabeth M
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New directions in bio-materials
Elizabeth M   10/7/2013 6:45:04 AM
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I like the idea of this helmet and the direction in which James Dart is going with his inventions. Replacing materials that are traditionally bad for the environment with more sustainable and eco-friendly materials is certainly the way forward for textile design and it's good to see young minds like Dart's thinking like this. Although this helmet may not be ready for commercial mass production yet, it's certainly not beyond the realm of possibility that this or something similar could be the helmet of choice for people in the not-so-distant future.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: New directions in bio-materials
Ann R. Thryft   10/7/2013 12:40:33 PM
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Thanks for this report, Elizabeth. Good to see bioplastics moving into sports equipment: it seems like a natural fit.

Elizabeth M
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Re: New directions in bio-materials
Elizabeth M   10/8/2013 6:42:31 AM
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I agree with you, Ann, it is a natural fit. Perhaps a bike helmet was a bit ambitious, as there are safety concerns with it that will need a lot of testing and trial and error to ensure it can offer the protection people need. Other products that are less about safety and more about pure sports use (perhaps soccer balls or something like that) might be easier to tackle as initial commercial products.

Rob Spiegel
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Testing for safety
Rob Spiegel   10/7/2013 11:41:18 AM
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Interesting product. I would think helmet manufacturers would be interested in testing this concept. Testing is one area where the home inventor is at a great disadvantage.

Elizabeth M
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Re: Testing for safety
Elizabeth M   10/8/2013 6:40:35 AM
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Yes, for sure, Rob, I totally agree. I think Dart's helmet could really work, but the truth will be in the testing, which he couldn't manage on his own. The backing of a manufacturer will certainly help with this, as you point out, and proof whether this type of helmet is viable for commercial distribution.

Charles Murray
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Material properties
Charles Murray   10/7/2013 7:17:28 PM
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Nice story, Liz. I'd be curious to see how the material properties of the bio-resin compare to the properties of conventional helmet materials.

Elizabeth M
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Re: Material properties
Elizabeth M   10/8/2013 6:59:44 AM
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I'm curious as well, Chuck! I actually think one problem might be degradation over time. I am not speaking from expertise, but it just seems that bioresin may not be as durable. But that is something that wouldn't be known until these products were out there being used. Perhaps someone who is a materials expert could weigh in on this?

Bunter
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Thoughts from a cyclist.
Bunter   10/8/2013 8:44:24 AM
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I won't say "it will never work".  An engineer should "never" use that word.  ;^D

I have raced bikes on and off-road, commuted in city traffic in all weather (try winter in Fargo, ND, was I nuts?).  Frankly a non-vented, heavier helmet is a no go.  Might be able to do something for the skate park/freestyle crowd.

This is a loooooooooooooooooooong way from viable.

When we are talking safety equipment for myself or my family eco-friendliness will not even get a consideration.  The product has to perform. 

On the other hand if he wants to put the effort into development and can bring it to the point where it does not compromise safety or function we can talk.

TTFN

Dennis

Elizabeth M
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Re: Thoughts from a cyclist.
Elizabeth M   10/8/2013 8:53:12 AM
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Thanks for your comment, Bunter. I can totally see your point, and I would say that definitely yes, this product will not work as it is now. But maybe with some tweaks in the future, it could be a viable option. And the fact that someone is working with bioresin to replace something that was traditionally made from plastic is a good step forward for the use of more sustainable materials.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Thoughts from a cyclist.
Ann R. Thryft   10/9/2013 12:21:48 PM
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Bioplastics are getting stronger all the time, and some are even used in under-hood vehicle applications as we've reported: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=243857 But few of them are strong enough to sustain really high impacts, such as for sports equipment like balls or golf club. Golf clubs are one application where carbon fiber, which is an extremely strong material, got its start. Helmets, of course, also have to be impact proof. But there are other types of sports-related equipment that don't have to sustain such high impacts, like shoes: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=239645&image_number=2

Elizabeth M
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Re: Thoughts from a cyclist.
Elizabeth M   10/10/2013 4:29:32 AM
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That's really good to know, Ann. I'll check out your article. So the strength isn't the issue here. It seems like, at least in this first iteration, that the issue is the weight of the helmet. So I guess the trick is to find a way to make it strong without a lot of weight. I'm sure it can be done.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Thoughts from a cyclist.
Ann R. Thryft   10/10/2013 12:43:58 PM
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It's also helpful to keep in mind that these university projects are often proof of concept experiments/student learning experiences. I did wonder why a food-related crop was being used, and also why a totally new resin was being investigated, when there are so many already out there, already commercialized in volume. Not every innovative material or process we report on that starts in a lab ends up being used in actual products.

Charles Murray
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Re: Thoughts from a cyclist.
Charles Murray   10/8/2013 7:01:22 PM
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Good point, Bunter. If it doesn't perform in terms of safety or function, none of the other features will matter.

Elizabeth M
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Re: Thoughts from a cyclist.
Elizabeth M   10/9/2013 8:49:10 AM
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Well that's true, Chuck (and Bunter). No matter what material is used for something, if the thing itself doesn't serve its ultimate purpose then it really doesn't matter. Although in this case, I would disagree a bit and say even if using this material doesn't achieve a workable bike helmet, the exploration of new materials is still valid (if not for the object itself, than for the science of creating the object).

Bunter
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Re: Thoughts from a cyclist.
Bunter   10/9/2013 8:53:24 AM
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Hi Elizabeth,

Actually you are not disagreeing with me.  Note my last statement is in support of pursuing the research.

Take care.

Dennis

Elizabeth M
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Re: Thoughts from a cyclist.
Elizabeth M   10/10/2013 4:26:31 AM
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Oh, sorry if I misunderstood, Bunter. So we do agree on the research angle, then! Thanks again for your comment and perspective; it is a good one.

Bunter
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Re: Thoughts from a cyclist.
Bunter   10/10/2013 10:21:27 AM
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Thanks Charles.

Sometimes I feel that the folks working on sustainable or eco-friendly ideas shoot themselves in the foot at the start by forgetting the end product objective.

Sure, we all wish that everyone shared our concerns and priorities and will flock to our product because of that.  That can work with a small volume niche product. 

However, if the eco-friendly designer really wants to make an impact (rather than just a "statement") in the areas they feel are important they will need to make a product that delivers excellence in the metrics that are important to the consumer while acheiving their personal enviromental goals.  Is that a high bar?  Sure, innovation always is.  When somebody whines that we "should" be doing something their way for whatever personal reasons they find "morally compelling" it seems to be a signal flag saying "my product can't cut it on it's merits".  My opinion anyway.  Rant mode off.  ;^D

Cheerio folks,

Dennis

Elizabeth M
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Re: Thoughts from a cyclist.
Elizabeth M   10/14/2013 3:22:27 AM
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These are good points, Dennis, thanks for bringing them up. I can see both sides of this issue and think experimentation with sustainable and eco-friendly materials, even if the finished product doesn't meet design standards already set for products, is a good thing. But I also see how it would probably do more for the mission of eco-friendly materials if the products invented were viable for commercial use in the end.

Bunter
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Re: Thoughts from a cyclist.
Bunter   10/22/2013 9:38:33 AM
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Thanks Elizabeth.

Was on vacation last week so I missed your comment.

Looks like our views are not that far apart on this.  In any group the their are unrealistic zealots that do their pet cause more harm than good.  Mr. Dart's comments clearly indicate that he is not one of the "problem children".

Take care,

Dennis

James Dart
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Iron
Feedback
James Dart   10/13/2013 10:55:25 AM
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Hello all, thank you for your comments. I agree strongly that this is not yet a viable product. The aim of my investigation was to take a fascinating new material, try to understand it and really demonstrate that with the power of making, it can be put to good use. The Dragonkraft material is the star here


My course was a Bachelors in 3D Design, there was a large emphasis on Craft and making. Unfortunately this was not a sole preoccupation, and as has been correctly suggested, full and proper testing is where this project reaches it's limitations.

 

I feel that what I have achieved over a few short months was to help to move a material forward in a new direction. In doing so, I have the seeds of a concept that is not unfeasible. In fact, while attending the JEC International Composites show in Paris this year, it was the material possibilities that captured some imagination and interest.

 

Furthermore, I have gathered interest from a leading European helmet manufacturer. I will be continuing the process of research and development from here in Switzerland. It is thanks to people like you who do take notice and help to push this along [and further away from a simple, or unproven, design showpiece]. It is very important that people continue to cut through the eco BS and say 'yes this has a future' or 'this lacks in some capacity'

 

Please do leave more of your thoughts and feedback. Thank you

 

 James

Elizabeth M
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Re: Feedback
Elizabeth M   10/14/2013 3:36:47 AM
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Thanks for weighing in, James. It's good to hear from the inventor about his work directly. This is the best way to foster a live discussion about this type of work and research and ultimately achieve the goals of what you're trying to do. Good luck with your future and keep us informed of other projects.

Bunter
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Re: Feedback
Bunter   10/22/2013 9:33:56 AM
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Great to hear from you James.

It is always good to see someone open to feedback on their work.  That is essential to progress and improvement.

Wish you all the best on your work.

Dennis

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