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Making a composite helmet

PLAYAK helmet: click to enlarge!

Happy-2b is a new helmet company based in the Netherlands. When the PLAYAK team met them last summer, we had the idea of writing an article showing how a helmet is actually made, from the laminating process to the outfitting. The guys at Happy-2b were really enthusiastic and decided to build a unique PLAYAK helmet to show what they are up to. The following article explains the design philosophy of Happy-2b and gives a step by step description of the building process. Enjoy.

The story of Happy-2b

[ by Evert-Jan ( [mail address protected from spambots with javascript] >EJ) from Happy-2b ]

Happy-2b started making headgear about one year ago. The reason for this is that Jolanda and I had been paddling for years and always had to wear headgear that we did not really like. Mostly we found the shapes, colors and even fitting not very flattering. Especially Jolanda could never find a nice helmet and especially the right size. So she decided to design one herself. I liked it a lot and the idea of making them for other people was born. A friend of mine, Rene Veltien, owns "2M2 custom made polyester products", a company that can make everything out of composite and he got the knowledge and skills to put one and one together.

A Happy Head

We choose the name Happy-2b, because we would like everybody to feel good. And because feeling good is contagious, it will eventually get back to you again. It is also a question we ask ourselves regularly in this busy and stressful world: Am I feeling Happy? Do I feel good about what I'm doing and the way I do it? We have tried to let our logo reflect that feeling of happiness. We have had a lot of nice reactions on that. People really like it. It's soft, gentle and also sturdy. Of course it's not everybody's cup of tea but that's OK with us. We also think that this way of thinking is suitable for every kind of sport. Happy-2b a playboater, happy-2b a snowboarder, happy-2b a skateboarder etc...

The models we have developed until now are for playboating. Not for extreme creeking. We are working on a safe creekmodel. The models need to be tested for an approval certificate (CE). For one model (12B) it is pending.... We hope to get it at the beginning of 2002.


For the manufacturing and painting we use only high quality materials. For our shells we use a special vinylester resin that has been modified to deal with the typical problems when working with Kevlar. We use only the best gel coat available to ensure a durable and shining finish. The laminate is build up out of 5 layers of glassfibre and Kevlar. Some models, like the KM 28 have extra carbon reinforcements to add stiffness. After molding the shells are post cured in a oven for maximum strength and then outfitted.

The spray paint we use is a 2 component quality from ICI. We'll use more environmental friendly aquabase paint when possible. As far as colors and designs are concerned, we can do a lot. We have standard paint jobs but if you want something special people can let us know there wishes and we will work something out with them. The guy who does the airbrush painting is Erik Hurxkens ( [mail address protected from spambots with javascript] >Bonobo). Check our website to see what he can achieve! For the PLAYAK.COM helmet, we simply used transfers.

Duraflex buckles

For the outfitting of the shells we use only tested webbings and DURAFLEX® buckles and clips. The foam we use is SIREX® which has excellent compression / stress-strain characteristics. There is a lot of discussion at the moment on what is the best solution for lining kayaking headgear. I'll try to explain somethings. A helmet is meant to decrease the probability of a fatal head injury. But no helmet can protect a person from every blow that might occur. To say it (too?) simply, you have two kind of head impacts in kayaking. Soft ones, bruises, small bumps, that won't cause concussion and very hard ones that can cause a concussion and put you unconscious. The soft ones occur the most and you can absorb there energy with closed minicell cell foam. The hard hits you can absorb best with EPS® ( used in bicycle helmets). The problem with this is that it will absorb energy by collapsing. It crushes. And here is the problem for EPS use in hard shell headgear like we make. Until the energy necessary to crush the EPS foam is reached, EPS transfers energy to your head. It's hard, until it collapses. Because composite shells are very hard, the blow must be extremely hard to crush the EPS foam liner.

We believe that a strong not to flexible shell, that will absorb and disperse energy, outfitted with a soft, thick lining that totally covers the inside of the shell will absorb and spread the forces of 80% of the head impacts in kayaking. Our headgear is designed and made for playboating use, not for extreme creeking. Our headgear needs to be comfortable too. That's why we use SIREX.

We constantly try to improve our performance. We are working on our products every day and we have quite a large group of supported freestylers who help us with it. They give us a lot of feedback on our products performance in the field. Without them we would not be half as good. Thanks guys/girls!

What we think @ PLAYAK ...

Well, it is really hard to judge a helmet... Mainly because we do not have the right equipment to try to break it and check that it is doing its job properly. And such a fine looking helmet, that would be a shame...

For the design philosophy, the SIREX® foam liner in a hard kevlar/glass shell, refer to EJ's explanations. We cannot really comment on whether it works or not. However there are norms in the European Community (CE). Happy-2b has CE approval pending on several shapes (including the model 12b featured in this article) and when the approval is definite, that will be a proof of head protection quality for their helmets.

Note that if if people from other composite helmet companies want to comment, please do so in here (and create an account login first so that we know who you are) or maybe start a thread on BoaterTalk, our partner site for online discussions. We know that Lidds uses a EPS liner, that Shred Ready uses the same type of concept than Happy-2b and already has CE approval for several shells ...

As for the look, it is just excellent! The quality of the workmanship is excellent, the helmet looks great and what is really impressive is the possibility of having about any type of custom job of your helmet. The PLAYAK helmet used for the article is rather simple and uses only one colour with metallic grey transfers (mainly because we did not really know what to ask for) but you can ask about anything including sprayed graphics and they'll try to do it for you. Nice hey !!!

The process step by step

[Click on any picture to enlarge]

Building the shell itself, there should be more than one picture for this very important part of the process: building the laminate alterning layers ofglass / kevlar and carbon to add structural rigidity. Getting rid of trapped air bubbles. Using enough resin to imprgnate all the fabric but not too much and make the helmet too heavy ...
Bonobo prepares the shell for painting: a first layer of white mat pre-paint is airbrushed onto the shell.
Experimenting with the doses to get the desired colour ...
While EJ starts playing with the paint, Jolanda makes the transfers that will be stuck under the gloss finish. They can do virtually anything that way. Also there is a spray paint job option.
The final paint, ready to be sprayed on.
After a couple of paint layers, Jolanda sticks the transfers to the shell ...
... and Bonobo adds that litlle gloss finish layer on top of it all.
Finished shell.

Helmets waiting for the final outfitting.

The model "12B" seems very popular with Happy-2b customers!

Finished. The straps, buckles, contour rim and of course minicell foam have all been added. The helmet is ready to be sent to his lucky owner.

More Info

For further information, please see the Happy-2b website or email directly [mail address protected from spambots with javascript] >EJ, these guys are top notch so do not hesitate to get in touch !



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