Earlier this summer, I was contacted by the friendly team at KAV Sports with an opportunity to test out their latest 3D printed hockey helmet. At the time I had never heard of KAV Sports, and really had no idea that there were already 3D printed hockey helmets on the market. With an incredible opportunity in front of me, I quickly agreed to review a pre-production model of the helmet. Below is my full experience with the helmet, as well as a quick foreword by the team at KAV Sports.
What do you look for in a hockey helmet? Protection, visual appeal, and comfort are the most common answers. Yet you can only have one or two of these features in existing helmets. Foam helmets have a linear correlation with protection – the thicker the helmet the more energy absorbed. But, thicker and therefore safer helmets make you look like an astronaut. Since most helmets are only offered in three sizes, they have an adjustable mechanism that either takes up valuable space or leaves gaps in protection when expanded. Consequently, when choosing a helmet, you have to decide between safety or style and comfort.
Introducing KAV, a company born in Silicon Valley, the epicenter of software, 3D printing, and sports innovation. KAV started with the philosophy that the best helmet is the one that fits you best. Using your measurements as inputs, KAV 3D prints a helmet around your head. Additionally, you can customize many of our patented features to your personal preference. KAV starts with an integrated quilted comfort liner that conforms to your head. An adjustable hexcipital lock cradles the back of your neck and provides the fit that best suits you. KAV’s chin cup is also adjustable, both vertically and in-depth. This allows precise placement of the chin cup without compromising sightlines from angling the cage up or down on J-Clips. The culmination of this relentless attention to fit is akin to getting a custom-tailored suit (or dress) versus a t-shirt offered in two or three sizes. To make the helmet comfortable in every aspect, KAV strategically placed its vents for maximum airflow and added a magnetic chin strap and quick clips (replaces cage straps) for convenience.
The same 3D printing technology that creates a custom fit also increases protection. Using a monocoque (single piece) construction, gaps in impact protection that come from a two-piece shell are eliminated. KAV’s 3D-Flect energy management system combines proprietary design and fabrication software, precision additive manufacturing techniques, and energy-absorbing thermopolyurthene to reduce linear and angular accelerations. Furthermore, the 3D-Flect energy management system adapts each part of the helmet for the anticipated impact scenarios. No detail is too small, as KAV removed bolts and latches throughout the helmet. Not only does this increase durability by eliminating rusted bolts or broken latches and clips, but it also eliminates components that transfer impact energy directly to the head.
Customer feedback has resulted in over two thousand enhancements covering details from the chin strap length to dialing in the desired pressure of the occipital locking mechanism. KAV even polled their Instagram followers on which cage design they preferred and then used their responses to manufacture the cage that is perfect for every player. From the placement of the vents to the simple yet subtle design of the quick clips, it is apparent that KAV has refined every detail to create a stunning product. The result: a slim and sleek helmet with subtle edges that still make the helmet stand out.
While having your helmet made to order in Silicon Valley is an investment, it’s in line with the premium paid for custom skates and it’s difficult to argue about skimping on the most important part of your body. So if you’re truly looking for a helmet without compromises, then head over to https://kavsports.com or @kavsports on Instagram.
The ordering process was much more involved than just picking a standard helmet off the shelf, but that was expected with a custom helmet. I started by visiting the KAV sports website and walked through a series of measurements. There were a number of measurements to take, such as the circumference of my head and distance from the top of my head to my chin. Each measurement is designed to help get that perfect custom fit for your individual head shape. After inputting the measurements, I finalized the order with a custom name bar, and sent it off to the KAV team for production.
Design and Construction
When the helmet arrived a few weeks later, I quickly opened it up to get a first look at the 3D printed hockey helmet. It’s a slick looking helmet, with a monocoque (one piece) constructed shell. This helps to eliminate any gaps in protection or places that sweat and bacteria can hide. It’s made using a 3D printed thermoplastic polyurethane that is tuned for impact absorption. This allowed the helmet to flex a bit in my hands as I squeezed it, but still provide the protection that you would expect. The material used also helps reduce the weight of the helmet to be lower than that of most traditional foam helmets.
The KAV Sports helmet was designed to eliminate the use of all bolts and screws as well. The cage attaches with a boltless design, which will yield a longer lasting product. In fact, KAV Sports offers a five year warranty on their 3D printed helmet. There are also quick clips on the side of the helmet, allowing the cage to clip in place for a firm hold. The chin strap has also eliminated metal snaps in favor of an easy to use magnetic design. It’s so simple to use that it can be done without even removing your gloves.
KAV’s 3D printed helmet features subzero vents which are strategically placed for active and passive cooling. Inside the helmet, a hexcipital lock will adapt to your head and prevent head rotation within the helmet. Additionally, the adjustable chin cup can be moved to dial in the fit of your helmet even further. Let’s not forget, because it’s 3D printed using your head measurements, there is no break in period or uncomfortable feeling. Out of the box, it’s designed to fit the unique shape of your head.
Right out of the box, the KAV 3D printed hockey helmet blew my mind. The fit was dynamite and spot on, with absolutely no adjustment necessary. I suppose that’s to be expected with a custom helmet, but my mind was blown with how well it fit.
With most helmets, after taking it out and putting it on your head, there is some type of dial you need to adjust in order to make it fit more to your liking. Even beyond that, the helmet might not fit exactly to your head shape. The experience with the KAV helmet is unlike any other.
Not only does the KAV helmet fit incredibly well, but there is also virtually no negative space left around my head. If I move my head around at all, there’s no shaking or rattling, the helmet follows my head wherever it moves without shifting around like some of my older helmets do.
I’ll be honest, when I first pulled the helmet out and gave it a squeeze I was pretty surprised to see how much flexibility there was. I did not expect that level of give, but instead figured it would be a very stiff helmet. After playing around with it for a bit though and reading through the specs, I understood that the 3D printed thermoplastic polyurethane material used helped improve impact absorption, so it had a bit of give to it.
Since I couldn’t get out into any real games with the helmet due to the pandemic, I just took a few punches to the head to see what kind of protection it offered. I know it’s not the most scientific way to do it, but the protection was great and I could hardly feel any impact. It certainly didn’t cause any pain or uncomfortableness.
On the flip side, being the one giving some punches to the helmet shell, I could feel the material absorb the impact of each hit. It’s kind of a weird feeling, but even as you press in on the helmet with your thumb or finger, you can feel the shell flex a bit and it helps to give you an idea of how the impact of a puck hitting the helmet or your head hitting the boards would be completely absorbed by the KAV 3D printed helmet.
Outside of the protection offered, the helmet features all performed pretty well. I took the helmet to the local outdoor rink and wore it for a couple of inline hockey sessions and loved the amount of airflow that I could feel while skating. The air was circulating nicely, and definitely helping to keep me cool on a warmer day.
The quick clips on the side were a nice feature to keep the cage locked in place, however, I did experience some issues with the clip on the front of the helmet. On more than one occasion, part of the cage came out from the clip, and this was only from normal opening and closing of the cage. However, this was a pre-production model of the helmet and KAV Sports have confirmed that the issue has been fixed on the final production model. Outside of that, the quick clips feature is incredibly clever and really cool to see on a helmet.
Finally, the magnetic quick play chin strap was another awesome feature. This one worked flawlessly. It took some time to get used to after using traditional chin straps for my whole life, but once I got the hang of the positioning, the magnetic chin strap was super easy to close and open.
After spending some time checking out and using a pre-production model of the KAV Sports 3D printed hockey helmet, I came away extremely impressed. Not only have they created a great hockey helmet, but they’ve done it with brand new technology to the hockey equipment market with 3D printing, and introduced brand new game changing features at the same time.
You could forgive the team at KAV Sports if this helmet wasn’t great. There are a lot of things they are trying to do, and jumping into the hockey equipment market is not easy. But rather than release a mediocre product, the team has absolutely nailed it with this helmet. Everything from the design to the cage to the small details were all done incredibly well and I could see this helmet doing well for years to come. If you’re looking for a new helmet, it would be crazy to not at least consider the KAV Sports 3D printed custom helmet.
Where to Buy?
If you want to check out the KAV Sports 3D printed hockey helmet in more detail, or if you’re ready to order one today, head over to the KAV website at KAVsports.com.