New Helmet/Helmet-liner design
Sent by my Mum from a radio show in Australia:
DESLEY BLANCH : A revolutionary helmet designed to reduce brain injury or death to motorcyclists and bicyclists has been developed by a Brisbane-based physicist. Following his participation in a 1980's research project that took him to fatal accident scenes, Don Morgan spent over 20 years researching and designing the unique helmet lining with its distinctive cone-shaped structures which allow greater absorption of the impact in an accident.
Don's cone-head invention was recognised in December as "The Invention of the Year" on ABC TV's "The New Inventors" for which I congratulated him.
DON MORGAN : Oh yes, thanks Desley for your congratulations. I was certainly surprised. In my wildest of dreams, I probably would never have thought I would have won "The Inventor of the Year" and I've probably only just come down from cloud 99 now. And I think it's a great thing that the ABC can have a show like "The New Inventors", so inventors like me can showcase their inventions.
DESLEY BLANCH : Well, it was your participation in a research project on road safety and this was into the effectiveness of motorcyclist and bicycle helmets. This is over 20 years ago and that's where your idea was spawned for a better helmet. So, tell us about how you conducted that research?
DON MORGAN : Well, it was a federal Office of Road Safety project and it went over a period of four years and we carried out a whole lot of different things such as crash simulations and investigating helmets to standards and what-have-you.
But one of the most important things that I did was to attend motorcycle accidents with the Traffic Accident Investigation Squad and what I did was to try to understand the forces involved. But I also brought back the helmet to the laboratory and pulled them apart to examine them for damage.
DESLEY BLANCH : And your findings. I mean what are the problems with today's helmet liners?
DON MORGAN : The most important crash features that came out of these helmets was that the liner itself did not....or they showed very little evidence of damage or crushing. And yet when we related this back to the crash reports, we found that the motorcyclists and cyclists had sustained serious head injuries or other words, inter-cranial injuries.
DESLEY BLANCH : And so the outside was strong and the inside was strong as well. This foam liner was too hard.
DON MORGAN : That's right. You summed it up clearly there. The foam liners were too hard and stiff and they did not effectively absorb an impact force. So other words, the forces were readily being translated across that hard thick liner to the skull.
DESLEY BLANCH : The research project itself finished in 1987 didn't it, and it was during the 1990's that you're daughter's bicycle helmet sent you a reminder message about helmet liners. So what was that and how did you react to that?
DON MORGAN : Yeah, well that was a very important stage in my journey. Because I remember my eldest daughter, she was learning to ride a bike at that time. I picked up the helmet and I pressed my thumb up against the hard foam and I remember being shocked that the foam liner was hard as a brick,. I couldn't even leave an impression of my thumb in the liner, and that was telling me that there was nothing done about softening the liners of helmets, because that was part of our research report recommending the softening of those liners especially in children's helmets.
DESLEY BLANCH : So, tell us about your path to cones as a design?
DON MORGAN : Yeah, well I looked at different designs and it was probably in the early part of 1993 that I thought of...well initially I thought of square-based pyramids and then I thought a few minutes later, no, it would be much easy to embed cones within the thickness of the hard liner because of the tooling, cost of tools and what-have-you, manufacturing tools. So that's why I went to cones.
Cones have that wonderful simple unique property, that when you apply a force to it, it'll initially compress or crush. And as you continue to apply a force to it, it becomes harder to compress or crush and that's why I use cones in the thickness of the liner. It's a great shock absorber.
DESLEY BLANCH : And these cones are low density and yet you've got a high density liner, but the pair work together somehow to reduce this rate of impact.
DON MORGAN : That's right. Now we call the liner 'cone liner', but you've got to understand that the cone liner is made up of two layers; the cone layer which is the cones and that's the closest part of that to the head and the overlying layer. The most important thing is that the cones extend from the cone layer, right through to the outer surface of the overlying layer.
And the cone layer is divided up into five sections and this is a very important feature because for the first time, there will be a helmet out there that takes into account the different thicknesses of the skull and strengths. So there is no other helmet out there that does that.
DESLEY BLANCH : So, you've got softer foam around the vital areas, like the temple, for instance?
DON MORGAN : Exactly, yeah, because you want softer foam to be in contact with the more fragile part of the skull. And also the overlying layer, that's important as well, because that's the layer that adds strength to the liner itself, that's the part that gets us through the standard.
DESLEY BLANCH : So, how did you obtain your scientific data that proved that cones gave a superior result to current liner designs?
DON MORGAN : In the year 2000 I was fortunate enough to receive a grant from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau which allowed me to manufacture and test samples of two different types of foams; the new cone liner foam and also the single hard density foam liners that you find in current helmets.
We tested the foam liners independently in New Zealand to the different Standards or to the Australian Standard particularly, and the test results show that the new cone liner was far more superior in absorbing an impact force than the current liners.
DESLEY BLANCH : And, you tried to find an Australian manufacturer for your helmet, but couldn't. So, what was the sticking point with that?
DON MORGAN : Oh, that's a difficult one. I can never work that one out Desley. I thought it was going to be easy. From there on once we got the scientific data, I thought it would be easy, but no-one was interested. I went for funding from different governments and they weren't even interested. So I can't really pinpoint that one.
DESLEY BLANCH : You still can't answer the question.
DON MORGAN : That's right. It's a struggle. Because I thought it was worthwhile to pursue. For anyone who's interested in manufacturing a helmet which was potentially an exporting item, they'd go with it, but no-one was interested.
DESLEY BLANCH : So, I guess you were rather disheartened at this point?
DON MORGAN : Yes, as I said I went for the Queensland Government Innovation Start Up Scheme on three occasions and I was rejected three times. And on the third time, that was probably the lowest point of my journey.
And I nearly walked away from it, but it was my wife who said 'look, we've spent much time and much money, our money on this', so she thought that we'd better stick with it. And I don't think I would have been the same if I did walk away from it.
DESLEY BLANCH : No, you wouldn't I'm sure of it, listening to the way you're talking. But you found a helmet manufacturer. So, how did that come about?
DON MORGAN : Yeah, well we wanted to manufacture a small batch of helmets, right? I thought well okay then; I'll manufacture a small batch of helmets and then try to sell them off to different buyers.
I went on to the internet and looked for different helmet manufacturers and I found about three or four of them and I sent off an email to each of them, and within an hour, a helmet manufacturer responded, and it just went from there.
When I disclosed the design to them, they said, 'Wow, this is absolutely fantastic. We've been trying to do this for several years'. And then they said, 'Well, would you like to sign a licence agreement' and I thought well, I won't give you the answer straight away. So I went away for a month and I thought about it, and then I thought yes, this is probably the best way to go.
DESLEY BLANCH : So, where is this manufacturer?
DON MORGAN : They're in Hong Kong, they're based in Hong Kong and they have two factories in China.
DESLEY BLANCH : So, why did you appear on "The New Inventors" TV show then?
DON MORGAN : Yes, it was mainly because this helmet would be manufactured overseas and no-one would know that it was an Aussie invention. I really wanted everyone to know that it was an Aussie invention and another invention that has escaped our shore.
DESLEY BLANCH : Could the Cone-Head helmet be applied to all kinds of safety helmets outside of bikes and so on?
DON MORGAN : Yes, yes, yes, that's right. The first helmet will be a motorcycle helmet. Then we're going to fit it into an automobile helmet and then a skiing helmet. And unfortunately, the last helmet they'll probably manufacture will be the bicycle helmet, because it's much more complicated. It's got a lot of venting in it. So the tooling will be much more complicated.
DESLEY BLANCH : So, when would you expect to get the helmets into full production?
DON MORGAN : Well, I'm really happy to say that we are into the production stage now and if everything goes to plan, the helmet with cone-head should be available within the next two or three months, hopefully in this first part of the year.
DESLEY BLANCH : Is that in Australia only or...?
DON MORGAN : Australia and New Zealand. What they're saying is they're using Australia and New Zealand as a test bed. Then they will put it into the European market and after that the US market.
DESLEY BLANCH : Inventor and physicist, Don Morgan from Brisbane in Queensland, whose helmet design is destined to reduce motorcycle and other fatalities from head injuries around the globe.
Located: Auckland, New Zealand...
but I left my biking heart along the Scenic Byways of America.....
"Come fill the cup that clears
Today of past regrets and future fears." ....Omar Khayyam