Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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fallNational Football League/industry/government consortium funds research by riding helmet manufacturer to reduce sport-related head injuries. / Nico Morgan photo

Charles Owen, a leading developer and manufacturer of protective equestrian head wear, has been selected as one of five finalists to receive funds for the further development of new materials for protection from head injuries. Funding for the research has been made available by Head Health Challenge III, a partnership of the National Football League (NFL), Under Armour, General Electric, and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Helmet design expert, Roy Burek, President and CEO of Charles Owen Inc., in collaboration with Cardiff University (Wales), Cambridge University (UK), and the High Performance Computing Center (Wales), has been working on the development of new energy absorbing materials based on the ancient Japanese art of origami. By using super-computers to analyze new material structures that fold, hinge, and compress, Burek aims to create new multi-reaction materials capable of protecting against soft falls differently than harder falls, oblique impacts differently than direct impacts. Their revolutionary material is called C3.

The most promising design structures, based on the computer analysis phase, will be built for further testing using state-of-the-art 3-D printing techniques. During the printing process, polymer-based powder is fused into the desired shapes by a laser to solidify the material into a strong, flexible structure.

Charles Owen is one five companies sharing an initial $250,000 award for a twelve-month program to develop improved material. A review panel will judge the efforts of the five companies at the conclusion of the period, and the company demonstrating the most promising technology will receive another $500,000 to develop the material further.
    
Charles Owen, Roy Burek’s grandfather, started making military helmets to protect British soldiers in 1911 before moving on to motorcycle helmets in 1925, and then equestrian helmets (particularly jockey helmets) in 1938. The company manufactures a comprehensive line of equestrian helmets for all disciplines, including foxhunting.

Head Health Challenge III, part of the larger Head Health Initiative, a four-year, $60 million collaboration between GE and the NFL, is one of three open innovation challenges to invest up to $20 million in research and technology to better understand, identify and protect against brain injury. Challenge I focused on discovering imaging and methods for diagnosis and prognosis of mild traumatic brain injuries, and in July 2015, six grand prize winners were awarded $500,000 to further their revolutionary research. Challenge II focused on new technologies to monitor, identify and protect against mild traumatic brain injury, and in December 2015, three grand prize winners were awarded up to $1 million to continue to advance their innovations.

The Head Health Challenge III collaboration, in which Charles Owen is a participant, helps implement a pledge by NIST and the U.S. Department of Commerce to invest resources to accelerate the development of materials that can protect against concussions. That pledge was made at the White House’s Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit in May 2014.

Posted March 14, 2016

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