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High-tech composite fire fighter helmet

News International-French

4 Aug 2015

Four companies partnered to create a full-shell fire fighter helmet combining high-protection and comfort with an extremely low weight.

Using a brand-new hybrid technology to comply with the strictest requirements inherent to the most extreme situations encountered by fire fighters, the Dräger HPS 7000 illustrates the cooperation between four different players, representing the whole value chain. Aside from a technology that can, and will, be exported to other markets such as electronics, aerospace, and automotive, the product also has recycling potential thanks to the use of thermoplastic materials.

Safety, low weight, and comfort
The composite innovation consists in a high-standard safety application using the injection moulding technique with a thin tailored thermoplastic composite preform. Combining the stringent technical requirements with mass-production suitability was only possible through the use of a thermoplastic Kevlar preform solution. Technical hurdles consisted in, for example, passing the wrinkle-free forming and trimming of the aramid/PA composite sheet, the adhesion between the tailored composite preform and the plastic material of the shell, as well as finding materials to successfully pass the test standards.

The “hybrid technology” denomination comes from the fact that the part is a combination of continuous fibre-reinforced plastics (CFRP) and a fibre-reinforced injection moulding material. The alliance of these material systems offers the best of both worlds: exceptional mechanical properties such as impact resistance at high temperatures combined with high design freedom and functionality through integration of the shell and various inserts all in a cost-effective mass production process.

The end result is a combination of a thinner and lighter helmet shell, both highly functional and protective, which also brings the highest level of comfort for the fire fighter.

From launch to worldwide production
This helmet is the result of an inspiring cooperation between four partnering companies, bringing along the entire composite production value chain: from the material producer (Bond-Laminates), to Tier 2 (Cato Composite Innovations) and Tier 1 (Pöppelmann) players and, finally, the OEM (Dräger).

The development of this product is the result of a three-year-long project. It started in 2011, with research on the best material combination for protection against impact at high temperatures. A continuous fibre-reinforced aramid/PA in combination with a short glass-fibre-reinforced PA injection moulding material was selected as the best material option. The product was launched worldwide two years ago with over 35,000 units in the first 18 months and has well exceeded the initial expectations in terms of market acceptance and sales, making it the new norm for fire brigade helmets.

In terms of market potential, the final product is already being produced in volumes of 30,000 units/year and further growth is expected: potential production rates could reach up to 50,000 units/year. What’s more, since the helmet is the first-ever commercial application of the hybrid technology in high-volume industrial applications, it can be seen as a demonstrator. This technology could potentially be used over a wide range of applications, especially in the automotive, aircraft interiors and consumer products industries, opening its market potential wider.

An article on this subject is in the JEC Composites Magazine 98.
Photo: The Dräger HPS 7000

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