A Helmet Made of Mushroom Fiber?
Erin Green posted on November 05, 2015 |

Whoever said internships had to be boring?

This simulation shows how the geodesic structure would unfold into an easily stashed strip. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)
This simulation shows how the geodesic structure would unfold into an easily stashed strip. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)

Six students, chosen to participate in Autodesk’s Applied Innovation Internship, spent their summers at Autodesk’s Pier 9 facility. Their mission? To create an original design and push the limits of Autodesk’s CAD/CAE/CAM platform Fusion 360.

To this end, these interns designed a unique bicycle helmet. As a product, helmets have several issues. They’re bulky, they don’t always fit properly and they commonly end up in landfills.

The interns’ solution combined their love of aesthetics and practicality. Their proposed product is a customized, foldable helmet made of a rather unexpected biodegradable material – mushroom fiber.

The video below illustrates the projects the Autodesk interns worked on.

Drafting a Unique Helmet

To achieve the helmet’s unique foldable characteristic, the team needed to find a plausible structure. Three possibilities were brought to the table and ultimately, a geodesic dome structure was chosen.

This structure, formed by shaping various components into a dome, allows for easy disassembly and storage of the helmet. 

"The long strip is pretty flexible, so you might imagine it being similar to stuffing a small sweater or shirt in your bag," said Philippe Videau, a UCLA aerospace engineering student who participated in the project.

The students used Autodesk’s Fusion 360 software to draft and design their helmet concept piece by piece.

Incorporating Mushroom Fiber

Mycelium is a woody fiber that gives fungi growth its structure. It has been the focus of various researchers looking for materials to replace plastic products.

The team, inspired by the work of Philip Ross at Mycoworks, chose to use mycelium for multiple reasons. For instance, mycelium has properties similar to polystyrene foam. This allows for the fungal fiber-based helmet to perform similarly to traditional helmets under loads a cyclist might suffer in a crash.

Mycelium is a lightweight, natural material, so it is completely biodegradable – a great advantage over the polystyrene typically used in bicycle helmet construction. Instead of going to a landfill, this helmet can be composted.

The fungus is also capable of growing into any shape it is given. This means that it would be possible for the geodesic pattern to be 3D printed first and then filled with mycelium for easy construction.

Bringing the Helmet to Life

The internship lasted for four weeks over the summer, which was not enough time for the interns to make a functional prototype of the helmet. However, they had a plan for taking the helmet to market.

Once assembled, each piece of the geodesic dome connects with neighboring pieces to form a unique and customized helmet. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)

Once assembled, each piece of the geodesic dome connects with neighboring pieces to form a unique and customized helmet. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)

The interns’ approach for manufacturing was the idea of mass customization.

“[A]s both 3D printing and 3D capturing technologies are rapidly getting better, cheaper and faster, we think that in the near future products can become highly customizable,” said Maya Kremien, an industrial design student at CCA who participated in the internship.

The helmet would be designed to fit a 3D photogrammetric scan of a person’s head. This custom approach would ensure a perfect fit which will greatly reduce the risk of serious brain injury in case of accidents.

It would also result in a unique tessellated pattern for each helmet to provide an additional aesthetic appeal.

For more information, check out the Autodesk website.


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