Penny Farthing Bikes, 3D Printing & the Bowler Hat Helmet

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bowler hat penny farthing bike

The Penny Farthing Fashion Statement

When Frenchman Eugène Meyer invented the high wheel (or penny farthing) bicycle back in 1869, little did he know that, aside from providing a chance to show off, his creation would pose a dangerous risk of headers and face plants to riders around the world.

Attempts to swap out the large and small wheels front to back and moving the seat to various locations failed to mitigate the danger, but the inherent instability of the design failed to discourage urban, well-heeled men from displaying their wealth, leisure time and talent atop the strange machines.

The fashion standards of the day called for some sort of head gear for men riding their bikes on the high street, and that gear was often a fashionable bowler hat. The bowler was stylish, but it was not particularly useful in mitigating the effects of a face-first crash from altitude and at speed.

And so as bicycle technology advanced toward more skull-friendly designs, the high-wheeler fell by the wayside.

While the high-wheeler became a victim of the past, some historically-minded riders have never let go. Enter “Swedish aristocrat and gentleman” Per Kristav.

helmet1

Per Kristav with his modern take on the bowler hat

Kristav, who has a Master’s Degree in Sociology with a focus on culture, is also fascinated with practical philosophy, ethnology, anthropology and freelance product design. A man interested in how people use products to manifest themselves, he’s also intrigued at the way people “create lifestyles, identities and how products reinforce ideological views.” In his quest to understand how everyday products influence behavior and create the perception of well-being, Kristav, a Lecturer at Lund University, decided it might be a gas to accessorize his penny farthing bicycle with a turn toward the fashion of the past.

To make it happen, Kristav turned to 3D printing to create the one accessory every proper, high-wheeling gentleman would require, a bowler hat. But this hat needed to serve a utilitarian purpose as well as a sartorial goal – it needed to function as a bicycle helmet.helmet2

So Kristav enlisted Olaf Diegel, a Professor of Mechatronics at Lund University. Diegel has gained notoriety of late by making artfully crafted, 3D printed guitars. Diegel has been using 3D printing for nearly 20 years, and his experience lets him understand the process well enough to use it when it gives him “creative advantages.”

“The fact that it allows me to make extremely complex shapes – shapes I couldn’t make any other way – is a feature I use in all my 3D printed work,” Diegel says.

Diegel says the challenge was to create a helmet that was capable of expressing style and providing safety, so he used an existing low profile bicycle helmet as a jumping off point to build a 3D printed bowler dome which could be clipped over the top the classic bowler. The final product uses a felt brim from an existing bowler hat.

Diegel began the design process by taking a 3D scan of the bicycle helmet with a 3D Systems Sense scanner, and then built a CAD model of the bowler hat shape in Solidworks. The pair of CAD models were then combined with Materialise Magics software, and the 3D scan file was subtracted from the CAD file. That left a 3D model of the bowler hat which was output with selective laser sintering via an EOS Formiga P110 machine. It was glued onto the helmet, and voilà!helmet5

Diegel’s work was done at the Lund University Idea 2 Product Lab, and the bowler helmet would surely have saved Eugène Meyer the occasional bump on the noggin.

What do you think of this bowler hat-styled helmet created by Per Kristav and Olaf Diegel? You can let us know in the 3D Printed Bowler Helmet forum thread on 3DPB.com.

 

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