• Amélie Poirier-Borduas

Shapeshift 3D wins NFL Grant to develop a football helmet

Shapeshift is proud to be part of the Kollide Team which will participate in the NFL Helmet Challenge over the next year. The Kollide-ÉTS team, consisting of a consortium of four Montreal-based businesses (Kupol, Tactix, numalogics and Shapeshift 3D) in collaboration with researchers from the École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS), is one of four recipients of grant funding from the National Football League (NFL) to participants of the NFL Helmet Challenge, an international competition held as part of the HeadHealthTECH program. The US$238,545 grant will enable the Kollide-ÉTS team to produce a prototype of its innovative concept for a football helmet that is safer than those currently available on the market. It should be noted that some 100 teams applied for this grant, while only four have received it.

The Kollide-ÉTS team will have until July 2021, when the NFL Helmet Challenge culminates, to make and submit its prototype. The NFL will conduct a series of impact tests on all the prototypes submitted and select the most effective helmet. This helmet shall set the new safety benchmarks for all future helmets worn by professional football players, and the winning team will receive one million dollars.

In response to this challenge, the Kollide consortium’s four constituent businesses as well as researchers Éric Wagnac and Yvan Petit, from ÉTS, will work on a design comprised of innovative pads produced through 3D printing and equipped with unique, patented three-dimensional structures that absorb and redirect impact. The team’s expertise in virtual design will make it possible to customize the shape of these pads to each player’s head based on a simple 3D scan, for an optimal fit. From a design standpoint, the team will rely on digital simulation to optimize the helmet’s effectiveness and to virtually test a very large number of designs without needing to produce physical prototypes. An innovative, multidisciplinary approach based on an open-innovation ecosystem (also known as a living lab) will also be employed in order to integrate into the creative process future pro football players, coaches, equipment managers, neuropsychologists, sports therapists and other stakeholders in the development of an improved football helmet.

It bears remembering that some 46,000 sports-related concussions are diagnosed each year in Canada, with the number of cases in the United States at 3.8 million. Football is the sport that results in the most concussions. This has been a safety issue of major concern for the NFL since the 90s, a decade during which the league experienced a wave of early retirements among its players, many of whom were diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease caused by repetitive blows to the head.