Dec 16, 2015 | By Kira

A 3D printed material developed by researchers at Cardiff University, has won $250,000 in funding in an NLF-backed competition, with the possibility of securing an addition $500,000 next year. Known as C3, the multi-layered elastic material has the ability to reduce head injuries by absorbing and dissipating impact, and could play a huge role in reducing the devastating effects of multiple concussions and permanent brain damage suffered by professional, college-level and even amateur football players.

The initial funding was awarded by the NFL, Under Armour, GE, and the US Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). US helmet designer and manufacturer Roy Burek, president and CEO of Charles Owen, has been given a grant to develop the material further using state-of-the-art 3D printing technology.

Though it is the quintessential and most celebrated sport of America, football, and its official proponent the National Football League, has come under increasing pressure surrounding heightened fears—and hard-set scientific evidence—of the prevalence of concussions leading to permanent brain damage, depression, psychological disorders and even suicide among ex-pros. The controversial topic is even the subject of an upcoming Hollywood film starring Will Smith, which tells the real life story of Dr Bennet Omalu, the forensic pathologist who discovered the link between football and CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encelopathy), yet who was effectively silenced by the NFL when he tried to make his research known to the public.

In light of this controversy, and certainly in good faith towards its players, the NFL seems to be opening up to the reality that safer measures must be taken, and it is turning to 3D printing technology to help soften the blow.

Left to right: brain PET scans of healthy control; former NFL player with suspected chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE); and person with Alzheimer’s disease (AD)

According to Cardiff University’s School of Engineering, the elastic, 3D printed C3 material can be tested using super computers to tailor the material to specific impacts. This allows various versions to be designed and tested before being 3D printed using a multi-material system. Along with providing unique multi-material and impact-absorbing capabilities, the Cardiff team found that 3D printing technology proved to be much cheaper and more efficient than traditional manufacturing techniques. So far, they have been able to create a prototype football helmet that contains the 3D printed material, and are also looking into using C3 technology for military applications.

“Head injury prevention strategies have remained relatively stagnant versus the evolution of other technologies,” said Peter Theobald, lecturer at Cardiff University and lead on the C3 project. “Our transatlantic collaboration with [helmet manufacturer] Charles Owen Inc has enabled us to pool our highly relevant skills and expertise in injury prevention, mechanics, manufacturing and commercialization. This approach has already enabled us to develop C3 which shows great promise to better absorb the vertical and horizontal components of an oblique impact.”

C3 is among four other winning designs to secure an initial $250,000 as part of the Head Health Challenge III, a joint initiative between the NFL, Under Armour, GE and the NIST to advance the development of technologies that can detect early stage mild traumatic brain injuries and improve brain protection. Between the four involved organizations, up to $20 million is being committed to funding innovative solutions to reduce brain injuries and protect athletes. The C3 development team will have one year to advance their project, at which time it will be reviewed again alongside the other three winners. The most promising technology will receive another $500,000 development grant.

“This highly prestigious award provides us with a platform to continue developing C3 towards our ultimate goal of achieving a material that provides a step-change in head health and protection, whilst achieving metrics that ensure commercial viability,” said Theobald.

Roy Burek added that although his Grandfather, Charles Own himself, started making helmets back in 1911 to protect British soldiers, the company is committed to pushing the development of new, innovative, and protective technologies in light of modern day scientific discoveries. “It has only been in the past 15 years that our knowledge of how the brain is injured and how to best protect it has dramatically changed along with the design and manufacture of helmets,” said Burek. “I am thrilled to be part of a project that pushes the development of totally new protective technologies and materials so that we can better prevent brain injuries in multiple areas.”

With an increasing number of medical publications coming to light, as well as the release of Will Smith’s upcoming film Concussion, which is set to hit theaters Christmas day, more and more people will hopefully be aware of the dangers and risks associated with football-related concussions, and will continue to push the NFL and all other sports organizations to develop measures, equipment, and policies that will protect their players’ most precious organs. Luckily, this 3D printing-enabled helmet initiative already seems to be a promising approach, and with further funding and development, could be a real technological touch down.

Recently, the researchers at Purdue University teamed up with General Motors to develop a similar 3D printed, energy-absorbing material that has applications in earthquake engineering to safer football helmets. That project is currently still under development.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



Maybe you also like:


Alexandrite Larragoitiy wrote at 4/5/2017 6:44:11 PM:

Hi, I am a senior in high school and looking for some advice. I am working on a multi-purpose helmet for a senior project and engineering project at Ernest S. McBride High School. If you could possibly help, can you email me at Thank you.

Bob Loblaw wrote at 12/18/2015 1:31:51 PM:

If this ever becomes publicly available and widespread, the prevention of chronic traumatic encephalopathy and resulting increase in the public's average IQ will reduce their fan-base dramatically and in turn put the NFL out of business.

Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to Feeds twitter facebook   

About provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive