Helmet maker gets €273K boost for safety project

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Equestrian safety helmet maker Charles Owen & Co has received €273,000 in funding from the European Commission to work on a ground-breaking project alongside EU partners to help reduce injuries and fatalities in sport.

The Wrexham-based company will work with manufacturers and researchers across five European countries including Belgium, Ireland, Italy and Sweden to drive forward the €3.4m HEADS project.

Charles-OwenAs part of the project new safety standards will be developed for helmets used in equestrian, cycling, motor and snow sports, as well as a range of new head gear for testing.

The European Union (EU) funding will help Charles Owen to apply scientific techniques to develop new equestrian safety standards, and manufacture a range of new products for testing.

Through the project, a network of engineers and scientists will also be trained at the participating EU partner organisations to take forward the advances in head safety technology and maintain Europe as a global leader in its development and commercialisation.

Accessing the funding through the EU’s largest research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020, the project aims to improve the understanding of head impact injury through technology-based simulations of real-life accidents.

Horizon 2020, worth around £65 billion across EU Member States, supports initiatives which aim to make breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts in science and innovation.

“As the manufacturing base of the UK has moved east, inventors of new materials are taking them to these new areas of mass production – creating challenges for longstanding companies like ourselves, said Charles Owen Managing Director Roy Burek.

“This EU Horizon 2020 funding  helps us in three ways: having access to new technologies before commercialisation, giving us tools to help us fine tune existing technologies, and demonstrating our commitment to making the best possible helmets in the world.”

The company has been at the forefront into research into safety, and last year brought a masters student from the University College Dublin to install its synthetic brain model at Charles Owen so that when new helmets are tested, researchers can analyze the injury done to the brain on a significantly deeper level than the helmet safety standards methods are capable of.

Charles Owen also installed a new helmet test rig in 2015 that can measure not only the direct forces on the brain, but also the tangential forces that can create shearing of the brain. Brain shearing, or diffuse brain injury, is caused when brain tissue rubs against other brain tissue and can result in severe and debilitating lesions. Charles Owen’s interest lies in how helmets can reduce brain shearing in the event of a fall, and their newest equipment can show how a helmet performs in six dimensions and, with the incorporation of high-speed video technology, in slow motion.

As a Head Health Challenge III winner, Charles Owen received $US250,000 to advance their work in developing cellular structures that use a stacked, origami-like design to optimize energy absorption. The essential building block of this winning material is a double corrugated sheet of the material, whose ability to fold efficiently was originally developed for applications in areas such as solar array packing in the space industry.
As a Head Health Challenge III winner, Charles Owen received $US250,000 to advance their work in developing cellular structures that use a stacked, origami-like design to optimize energy absorption. The essential building block of this winning material is a double corrugated sheet of the material, whose ability to fold efficiently was originally developed for applications in areas such as solar array packing in the space industry.

Charles Owen was selected as the recipient of the five first-round winners of the Head Challenge III Project, presented by the NFL, GE and Under Armour, which was created to develop the next generation of reactive materials to be used in helmets. The hope is that those materials will be more responsive to the type of fall by performing differently in the event of a soft impact versus a hard one.

“It’s actually utilizing the art of origami, which is all about the study of folding and how solids can hinge and fold and compress,” Burek said. Charles Owen has collaborated with Cardiff University (Wales), Cambridge University (UK), and the High Performance Computing Center (Wales), and the research partners will have tangible results to look forward to within the next few years.

“Our mission is to make horseback riding a safe world because we feel that every young person should be able to experience the relationship with a horse and its connection with nature,” Burek said.

“If parents feel that horse-riding is too dangerous, that will actually prevent them from having that experience. We see many examples of how horses are used to rehabilitate people who come back from war, who are young criminals, and even who are leaders of industry; the horse can help them be better leaders, and to deny that experience to anybody because they feel that horseback riding is too unsafe is a real shame. So these research monies just allow us to continually improve horseback riding’s safety record and make the horse much more a central part of everyday society.”

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