Riddell, a sporting equipment company whose football helmets are worn by over 60% of NFL players, unveiled a newly developed process for producing helmet that could potentially help prevent head injuries from the game. The process features the use of 3D scanning technology to scan the heads of each player who wears their new helmet, the Precision Fit. While other helmets on the market feature inflatable pads that can be manually adjusted, Precision Fit helmets will instead feature a custom-fit system that is created based off of each individual’s 3D scanned data of their heads.

Designers of the helmet anticipate this custom fit padding will not only be much more comfortable because it is tailored to each individuals head, but will also offer greater protection because it is the “perfect fitting helmet,” leaving no room for heads to move around in collisions. The project has taken Riddell a little over 4 years of development, and after substantial testing amongst some colleges in the previous years, now will be released to NFL players for the upcoming 2017 season.

Riddell's next step in football helmet technology includes personalized 3D head scans.

Riddell’s next step in football helmet technology includes personalized 3D scans of the head.

According to Thad Ide, Riddell’s Senior VP of Research & Product Development, these helmets are designed to last an entire career. Helmets would be sent back to Riddell where they would be reconditioned and re-certified to ensure player safety. Ide explained “Scaleability and affordability are important to us on this platform,” he said. “We’re rolling it out for large colleges and professional teams, but as we scale it I can see this becoming an affordable option for high schools, junior highs, youth programs — these are all things we’re working on.”

Brett Williams, an employee at Mashable –  a media and entertainment company focusing on tech, digital culture and entertainment – recently met up with some of the Precision Fit design team to test out this new, revolutionary helmet. Having played football professionally in Europe, Williams had plenty of experience with helmet technology, but expressed that he had “never experienced anything like this.”

The scanner captured images of exactly how the helmet sat on my head.

A Riddell team member scanning Williams’ head.

Willaims explained the process in his article:

I was given a cowl to put on under a demo helmet, which I then strapped on tightly so the scanner could record exactly where it sat on my head. The Riddell tech walked around me in a circle to capture a 360-degree scan of my head with the helmet on, using a 3D scanner hooked up to a Surface tablet running the company’s proprietary software. After recording the helmet, a second scan was taken with only the cowl to capture the exact shape of my head for the mold. My Precision Fit scan experience, which took about five minutes, was only a demo. Riddell won’t be making me a helmet of my own, due to cost and time constraints; players typically get their helmets  four to six weeks after the scan.

According to Williams, Riddell is far from being the only company researching the integration of these kinds of technologies into football helmets. Many of their competitors are working to find the best solution to preventing traumatic head injuries in football. Although these injuries can never be completely avoided in reality, innovations such as the 3D scanning technology that is integrated into the creation of the Precision Fit helmets will definitely provide greater safety to players.