Putting helmets to the test

New invention aims at making motorcycling safer.

Motorcycle riders may soon have peace of mind their helmet is safe to use after a drop or crash, thanks to a new invention that uses a laser to scan your helmet.

The Helmet Doctors who developed the device now want to know if riders would pay $40 for the safety scanning service. You can take part in their quick 10-question online survey by clicking here.

Early feedback on the poll shows strong support (more than 70 percent) for a helmet scan service.

The Helmet Doctors is a family venture founded by Brayden Robinson and his father, Scott (pictured), of the Sunshine Coast.

“We grew up with the kids and me riding motocross and we would often see kids crash then continue to use their helmets which appeared to be unscathed,” Scott says.

“When Brayden was hospitalised with a fractured skull, we were shocked to see how good the helmet still looked. So, we started looking for a better way to assure helmets are still in a safe condition after a crash.”

This led Scott and Brayden to invent a helmet laser-scanning technique with the help of a Belgian lab which primarily works in aeronautical and spatial technologies. The lab develops, operates and makes solutions to improve the design, mechanical strength and durability, under a vibratory environment, of equipment and structures.

Scott and Brayden did extensive research and development with the company and with the help of the Composites Research Group in the School of Mechanical and Mining Engineering at The University of Queensland. The father-and-son team investigated sound waves, x-rays and other non-destructive testing techniques.

“We found this laser scanning technique can categorically guarantee that, if there is any damage to the helmet’s outer shell, our technique will identify it,” Scott said.

“It’s ground-breaking, proven science.”

The Helmet Doctors have a Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) application that allows them to enter their patent application into any of 152 jurisdictions by 23 June 2020. At present the application has been examined by the international PCT body and all but one claim has been found to be novel over identified existing technology.

The Helmet Doctors are keen to turn this into a commercial venture.

Manufacturing safety standards say a composite helmet has a lifespan of five years and, if used frequently, about three years. But what if you drop it or have a crash?

“We have all heard how if you drop your helmet once you should replace it. But very few do this,” Scott said. “No one knows how much impact a composite helmet can tolerate before the shell is critically weakened.

“Composite materials have many layers and tiny fibres that can be damaged in a fall. The impact energy is dispersed among the fibres and away from the brain which it is designed to do. This is why a dropped helmet may still look ok.

“However, the impact could have led to a small crack or splintering which you can’t see with the naked eye. Our device can view, read and record the helmet 100,000 times better than the naked eye and find if there are any cracks, splintering or deformations which would make the helmet defective and unable to withstand another impact.”

The Helmet Doctors plan to test their service first in South-East Queensland. Riders would take their helmet to a participating motorcycle dealer where they would leave it and pick it up a few days later. The helmet would be sent to the nearest scanner depot where it would be scanned, assessed and returned.