Plastics and Helmet

We all are aware of helmets and many of us even use it quite frequently. It is an important part of any bike ride. Bike helmets are the most common type of helmet, which everyone knows. Nevertheless, helmets are used in many applications such as in:

  • Defence forces
  • Sports
  • Automobile
  • Construction
  • Mining
  • Recreational activities such as rock climbing
  • Space travel etc

First reported use of Helmet:

  • Assyrian Soldiers
  • Year: 900 BC
  • Material of Construction: Leather or Bronze or iron
  • Approximate weight: 3 kg
  • Usage: Protect head from impact of blunt objects, blows of sword and also arrows during war
Assyrian Helmet

First reported Plastic Helmet:

  • Invention: Plastic suspension helmet
  • First made by Mr. John Tate Riddell
  • Year of Invention: 1939
  • Patent No.: US2293308A dated April 11, 1940
  • Link to Patent:
  • Listed following commercial plastic materials for use in making plastic helmet:
    • Celluloid
    • Fiberloid
    • Pyralin
    • Tenite
    • Lumarith
    • Fibestos
    • Plastacele
    • Lucite
    • Crystalite, and
    • Vinylite

The work describes the first relationship between plastics and helmet. Patent was licensed to US government to use the helmet’s suspension system for making military helmets

Patent of John Riddle
John Riddle and First plastic helmet

Mr. John T. Riddell formed his company named ‘Ridell Sports Group Inc.’ (currently, a subsidiary of BRG sports group, who’s parent company is Fenway Partners) in 1929.

  • Business Type: Sporting goods manufacturer and retailer
  • Revenue: ~135 million USD
  • Location: Illinois, United States
  • Website:
  • Current CEO: Mr. Dan Arment

Let’s dive in a little more to understand some of the above mentioned helmet applications:

  • Defence forces:
    • Also called as Combat or Military or Ballistic Helmets
    • Market expected to reach about 3.3 Billion USD by 2027 at a CAGR of more than 5%
    • Largely used by military and law enforcement agencies
    • Some of the top manufacturers: Avon Rubber Plc (UK), BAE Systems (UK), DuPont (US), Safariland Group (US); whereas, from India MKU Limited (In Jul. 2018 they supplied 7,500 ballistic helmets to the Indian Army – part supply of the 1,58,00 ballistic helmets of a contract amounting to USD 22.3 million) is one of the world’s top defence helmet manufacturers
    • China and India are looked upon as the most lucrative market areas
    • Used for protecting the wearer from:
      • Airborne flying particles
      • Ballistic threats
      • Ballistic fragments
    • Indian Army Major Anoop Mishra developed world’s first bullet proof helmet, which can even resist penetration of bullets fired from AK-47 from a distance of 10 meters. The work was a part of Indian Army Project titled ‘Abehdya’. Work was executed at the College of Military Engineering, Pune.
    • Materials largely used in making combat helmets are Kevlar (a type of para-aramid synthetic fiber developed by Stephanie Kwolek (DuPont) in 1965 and currently also produced by DuPont), Twaron (a type of aramid fiber first developed by Akzo in 1970s and currently produced by Teijin Company, Japan), and even ultra high molecular weight polyethylene.
    • First usage of plastic in Combat Helmets:
      • First introduced by Israel, helmets were made of Kevlar polymer
      • Introduced by US Army in 1983, popularly called as ‘K-Pot’
K-Pot Helmet

Process of making military helmets

  • Sports:
    • Is a part of Sports Protective Equipment
    • Used in sports such as hockey, football, skating, cycling, horse riding, bike riding etc
    • Market for sports helmet was about 7,500 million USD in 2018 and is expected to reach about 10,200 million USD  by 2026 at a CAGR of about 4%
    • Some of the top manufacturers: Adidas AG (Germany), Nike Inc (US), Puma SE (Germany), Under Armour Inc (US) etc.
    • Helps in protecting wearers head, face, trunk, thorax etc from any type of an impact
    • In 2018, US was the largest user of Sports Protective Equipment
    • First usage of plastic in Sports Helmets:
      • First introduced by Mr. John T. Riddell in USA for playing football
    • Currently made of polycarbonate shell equipped with padding of polyurethane or polyolefin foam

Process of making football helmets

Process of making bike helmets:

  • Automobile:
    • Largely used when commuting using motorcycle
    • Use of helmets increases survival chances by about 40% and decrease in injuries by more than 65%
    • Motorcycle helmet market was about 3.3 billion USD in 2020 and is expected to reach about 5 billion USD by 2027. Grow expected at a CAGR of 5.7%
    • India’s motorcycle helmet market growth is expected at a CAGR of 14% from 2021 to 2026
    • Some of the top manufacturers:
      • Dainese SpA, Italy
      • HJC Europe S.A.R.L, France
      • Shoei Co. Ltd, Japan
      • Arai Helmet Ltd, Japan
      • Largest motorcycle helmet manufacturers in India are Studds, Vega and Steel Bird
    • First helmet for use in motorcycle was invented by British physician – Dr. Eric Gardner, in 1919 using shellacked canvas
    • Types:
      • Full face
      • Half face
      • Open face
      • Modular
      • Motocross
    • These days, motorcycle helmets are generally made of :
      • Shell: polycarbonate or fiberglass or Kevlar
      • Padding foam: expanded polystyrene or expanded polypropylene
    • Different countries have different laws regarding which age group should wear helmet, test standards for helmet and whether only the driver or also the pillion rider should wear helmet
First helmet by Dr. Eric Gardner

Process of making motorcycle helmets

  • Safety Helmets
    • Invented in 1919 by Mr. Edward W. Bullard using canvas, leather, shellac and black coloured paint. In those it was also called as ‘Hard Boiled Hat’
    • Year of patenting: 1927
    • Patent No.: US 1699133 dated July 6, 1927
    • Market:
      • Was 1.8 billion USD in 2019
      • Expected to be 2.6 billion USD by 2026
      • Growth CAGR in the period: 7.7%
    • These are either manufactured using polyethylene or acrylonitrile butadiene styrene or Polycarbonate or their combination
    • Some of the major manufacturers:
      • 3M, US
      • Dragerwerk AG & Co, Germany
      • Delta Plus Group, France
      • Pyramex Safety Products, LLC, US
    • Largely used in construction, manufacturing and mining industries
    • Types:
      • Type I or Type II
      • Hard Bump Caps or Soft Bump Caps
Patent by Edward Bullard
Edward Bullard and his Safety hat design

Process of making motorcycle helmets:

Dear Readers, do go through the above content on ‘Plastics and Helmets’ and let me know your viewpoints in the Comments section.

Thanks for Reading!

I put up a new post whenever I come across an interesting topic, so follow my blog and stay updated about the developments in the polymer industry.


One thought on “Plastics and Helmet

  1. This informative article is written in very intresting way, connecting the reader till last line.

Leave a Reply