US inventor's folding paper bike helmet wins James Dyson award

midian182

TechSpot Editor
Staff member

A US designer has won the coveted International James Dyson Award for an innovative bike helmet made out of paper. New Yorker Isis Shiffer's disposable EcoHelmet took the £30,000 ($37,476) prize, which will be used for further development and to help bring it to market.

Shiffer came up with the idea while using bike-hire schemes during her time studying abroad in Tokyo and London. "When I was exploring new cities I had no access to a helmet and I didn't want to spend $30 buying one," she told the BBC.

Her solution was to create a helmet using cheap, recyclable materials that can be folded away. When its accordion-style shape is fully opened, the honeycomb structure allows the impact of a collision to be spread across the entire design, protecting the head from a blow from any direction. Shiffer tested the helmet at Imperial College in London.

As the helmet weakens over time, it only has a limited number of uses. It’s hoped that the final product will come with some sort of indicator to show when it should be thrown away, such as a stripe that changes color or a clip that stops working after a certain amount of time. There are also plans to coat the helmet with a waterproof material such as wax to protect it from rain.

The inventor’s ultimate goal is to have the helmets on sale in vending machines at bike-hire locations for $5 each. But Shiffer admits that convincing people a helmet made from paper is safe will be a “tough sell.” She’s currently working with a LA firm MemBrain to produce, market, and raise funds for her invention.

Sir James Dyson himself is a fan of the EcoHelmet. He said it "solves an obvious problem in an incredibly elegant way. But its simplicity belies an impressive amount of research and development. I look forward to seeing EcoHelmets used in bike shares across the world."

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mbrowne5061

TS Evangelist
Why not use a plastic with similar mechanical properties as the paper she selected? It would be both waterproof, and an easier sell.
 

Uncle Al

TS Evangelist
If the impact is spread over a larger mass, such as the head striking the pavement, it should work very well, but if the surface being contacted like a curb or something more pointed, I have serious doubts this design would offer near the degree of protection of a solid helmet. There are trade offs to each, but when protecting the noggin I think a solid brain bucket is the way to go.
 
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ArdvarkMaster

TS Booster
If you are going to take your bike riding safety seriously enough that you go out and purchase a helmet, why wouldn't you spend a little more and and get a more durable one? IMO this would only appeal to the one time riders or possible bike renters in tourist areas. Situations where the helmet would only be used once or for a very limited duration, then thrown away.
 
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Daithi

TS Addict
IMO this would only appeal to the one time riders or possible bike renters in tourist areas. Situations where the helmet would only be used once or for a very limited duration, then thrown away.
Well its a good thing that's exactly who they said they are targetting then.
 
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captaincranky

TechSpot Addict
I saw this guy who had been hit on a motorcycle, laying on the ground with blood pouring out of his helmet. Which is why I'm so very glad to live in a free state which no longer requires them. (y)

So after you have bought 6 of these, you could have bought a $30 helmet instead.
Or simply not bothered, and saved somewhere between 5 and 30 dollars.

The human race has confused thinking a single individual matters, by virtue of confusing its massive ego, with simple Darwinian desire to survive at the level of the reptile brain. That god we have psychologists to tell us that's, "cognitive dissonance".

"No one should have to die. Everyone should live forever! There are already way too many of us! What can we not bother doing about it"?
 

mbrowne5061

TS Evangelist
I don't think plastic would absorb an impact as well. I could be wrong though.
Your helmet is already made entirely of plastic, of one form or another. Either way, as long as you match the mechanical properties you should get similar performance.

As long as the young's modulus is roughly equal, then you should get similar performance out of similar geometries. If its lower, increase the individual thickness of each 'rib', if its higher, you can actually decrease the thickness.

The problem, now that I really think about it, might be with manufacturing. Papers and cardboards take glues well, plastics do not (as well), and welding the plastic might be too expensive or just not physically possible with available manufacturing equipment.
 

Teko03

TS Evangelist
It's like people in the comment section aren't realizing that this is targeted towards biking sharing/rental users who typically use NO HELMET AT ALL. If I'm just riding a bike for a day or two, or just every so often, why wouldn't I go out and invest in a full blown bike helmet? You buy it once, ride to your destination, turn the bike in and fold your paper helmet up and toss it into your purse or backpack.
 

Adhmuz

TechSpot Paladin
If you are going to take your bike riding safety seriously enough that you go out and purchase a helmet, why wouldn't you spend a little more and and get a more durable one? IMO this would only appeal to the one time riders or possible bike renters in tourist areas. Situations where the helmet would only be used once or for a very limited duration, then thrown away.
Well yeah, anyone seriously into riding a bike is likely to have a proper helmet or they simply don't care about their safety enough to consider a $5 disposable one. The concept is squarely aimed at those who rent bikes whilst on vacation and is purposely designed to be thrown away... Did you even read the article?

Although the concept is great, I would never trust my safety to some folding paper on my head, as already mentioned, what will happen when you go head on with a sign post, or a curb corner? I'd only have to assume that results are not going to be nearly as good for the cyclist involved. Albeit it's still better than nothing at all right?
 

stewi0001

TS Evangelist
Platinum
Your helmet is already made entirely of plastic, of one form or another. Either way, as long as you match the mechanical properties you should get similar performance.

As long as the young's modulus is roughly equal, then you should get similar performance out of similar geometries. If its lower, increase the individual thickness of each 'rib', if its higher, you can actually decrease the thickness.

The problem, now that I really think about it, might be with manufacturing. Papers and cardboards take glues well, plastics do not (as well), and welding the plastic might be too expensive or just not physically possible with available manufacturing equipment.
Yes it is made with plastic, I apologize that I will do a horrible explaining this...

Most bike helmets use expanded polystyrene foam, which is one hit and it's done for. From what I can recall, that material isn't bendable and I don't know how well it would do as thin ribs.

Basically what I am trying to get at, do you know of some other type of plastic that I'm not thinking of?
 

mbrowne5061

TS Evangelist
Yes it is made with plastic, I apologize that I will do a horrible explaining this...

Most bike helmets use expanded polystyrene foam, which is one hit and it's done for. From what I can recall, that material isn't bendable and I don't know how well it would do as thin ribs.

Basically what I am trying to get at, do you know of some other type of plastic that I'm not thinking of?
I don't, but I doubt that this will be more than 'one hit and done' either. I think what they meant by 'multi-use' is the same way your average bike helmet is 'multi-use': you use it until you have an accident. The difference I think will be that these paper helmets will only b good for a few rides, regardless of whether there is an accident or not.
 
J

Jibberish18

Why not use a plastic with similar mechanical properties as the paper she selected? It would be both waterproof, and an easier sell.
The whole "Eco" part I think.

And I'm curious as to why so many people here assume that it won't offer the same protection as a standard helmet just because it's from paper?
 

Puiu

TS Evangelist
Why not use a plastic with similar mechanical properties as the paper she selected? It would be both waterproof, and an easier sell.
The whole "Eco" part I think.

And I'm curious as to why so many people here assume that it won't offer the same protection as a standard helmet just because it's from paper?
not many. it should actually offer better protection if it's thick enough and the shape is ok. we just can't be sure until tests on the final product are done, this one is just a prototype that shows that it can be done.
 

VitalyT

Russ-Puss
Tell your brain surgent that you were just trying to save couple bucks on protection for your head...
 

mcborge

TS Guru
That thing looks like a christmas decoration... Its no substitute for a proper skid lid that's for sure.
 
R

Raoul Duke

Considering that not even professional cyclists had helmets until circa 1990+ and I rode and raced and crashed for so many years without one, I've never been of the opinion that 280 grams of Styrofoam on one's head is going to be miraculous. Better safer riding, good skills, but yes, it is better than nothing.
Tek03 had it right I think. It is for the 'grown up all my life with helmets' generation that is horrified at the prospect of renting a bike for a once in several years having to ride with no helmet. Scary thought I know. Bicycle, no helmet, guaranteed brain damage for sure. But hey, if it saves your head from road rash, for $5 that'd be worth it
 

Jack007

TS Booster
It seems innovative but what if someone collided with a sharp object. it would just cut through while a real helmet would be harder to be cut. I bet she didnt think about that. and believe me many sharp objects are out there to collide with
 

stewi0001

TS Evangelist
Platinum
I don't, but I doubt that this will be more than 'one hit and done' either. I think what they meant by 'multi-use' is the same way your average bike helmet is 'multi-use': you use it until you have an accident. The difference I think will be that these paper helmets will only b good for a few rides, regardless of whether there is an accident or not.
True, I am curious of how long these helmets last. At least you can throw these in the recycling bin! technically you can with the traditional bike helmet too but you get my point ;)
 
J

Joe Blow

I don't get the "eco" part of this. My bicycle helmets are decades old and dinged up. Never a need to toss them. This one has limited use and needs to be replaced, as it gets abused. More materials, more disposal and more waste.

An interesting idea? Yes. Eco? Hardly.