The new Virtual Test Lab by Mips aims to boost lid safety

Development of a motorcycle helmet can be a drawn-out process, with years of testing, retooling components and a dollop of trial and error.

Swedish helmet safety specialists Mips are tackling this with a new Virtual Test Lab – allowing them to examine the safety of a helmet digitally, meaning less need for physical testing, less waste, and potentially a faster end product too.

“When you look at the development time of a motorcycle helmet, it normally takes around two to three years,” Mips CEO Max Strandwitz told MCN.

“You need to do a lot of retooling – where something didn’t work as you’d wanted, or the density was not right,” he continued. “But we are striving to reduce the number of helmets you need to test before you  an get to the actual product.”

Mips have been using virtual testing since 2002, with the company initially too small to afford costly physical experimentation. They then started using it for accident reconstruction, before looking at the car industry in 2017 and realising the same tech could be used on a much larger scale.

Mips technology

“No-one would develop a car before they knew it could actually be the car they wanted to have,” the CEO continued.

“We said ‘we’re going to do the same’ – bringing this to our brand partners around the world to help them optimise their helmets.”

The resulting software is a culmination of around 20 years of research that allows Mips to digitally construct a lid in around ten days, before beginning tests for safety in linear and rotational impacts, the effectiveness of ventilation, how much material you need to use and more.

So how does it work? Strandwitz explains: “Normally, when someone comes to us, they send us a CAD drawing of what their helmet is going to look like. You also need to have some of the characteristics of the different materials that they use.”

Using this information, the team then break the helmet down into sections, with each unit in the lid given characteristics dependant on its material. This creates what’s known as a Mesh Structure, before they build the helmet up again to get the complete digital model.

Strandwitz goes on: “You need to have a material library. There you pick all the characteristics of the different materials and that’s normally what takes a lot of time.

“A motorcycle helmet can easily have five different densities – depending on where you are in the helmet,” he adds.

“The better you do the Mesh Structure, the better the outcome will be.”

While it’s hoped digital testing can one day remove the need for physical testing altogether, Mips say we’re still a couple of years off that. The first bicycle helmets produced using the system are now hitting the market.