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Teachable moments from a Daft Punk helmet

January 13, 2016


A replica helmet from the Daft Punk music group.

The Design, Fabrication and Testing research team put their heads together to create a replica of the helmet worn by Guy Manuel, a member of the electronic music group Daft Punk.

The project was completed in just under two months and was used to enhance the team's skill-set in 3D printing, rapid prototyping and surface modelling.

"The helmet was difficult to model. When we reverse engineer something, we usually have a physical part to work from. Since we didn't have a helmet, we looked on the Internet for high-resolution pictures and videos," explained researcher Emerson Burns. "We imported the best front and side photos into SOLIDWORKS and built our model from there, referencing other photos for accuracy. Once complete, we broke the model into pieces for 3D printing."

Another challenge was creating the visors. The buck (or mold) the team used was 3D-printed from ABS plastic (often seen in plumbing fixtures). The visor needed to be vacuum formed. This involves heating plastic, stretching it over a buck and then using a vacuum to conform the plastic. The team tried a number of materials before finding one that worked.

"We initially wanted to use 2-mm Polycarbonate, but the forming temperatures were too high. We ended up using 1.5-mm PETG (pop bottle) plastic. It still had to be heated to 135 degrees Celsius, more than three times the maximum recommended working temperature of the ABS plastic. If the buck heats above 60 degrees it will start to warp," explained Burns. "After about six seconds we were in the 60-degree Celsius range which prevented warping," Burns said the team's learning is invaluable. "We are now capable of printing tools to manufacture parts that can't be 3D printed," he said. "Industry clients often ask us to improve on products they already have. This involves taking the product apart, 3D scanning it, rebuilding the product using computer-aided design, altering the desired parts and then 3D printing each element for testing. Our expertise has grown in this area."

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