Football helmet Maker Whips Product Line Into Shape with and SolidWorks Software

Do you want to be safe, or do you want to be cool?

Too often, these are mutually exclusive options, but not in the case of the world’s leading football helmets and faceguards. Three out of four pro football players wear Schutt Sports gear. The Litchfield, Ill., company’s Ion 4D, Schutt AiR XP and DNA Pro+ are the world’s only helmets to feature advanced TPU Cushioning—the material used in US fighter pilot and paratrooper helmets. Safe and cool, these helmets protect heads and look good doing it. Though a rising star, Schutt Sports has made football safety equipment since 1935, when it developed the sport’s first faceguard. Recently, the company decided to aggressively upgrade its entire helmet and faceguard line, a decision that presented several engineering challenges.


Recovering complex surfaces from 2D designs

First was complexity. Hardly spherical, a football helmet has a complex set of curves to optimize safety, fit, performance, and eye appeal. Adding to this complexity are cooling vents for comfort and prevention of heat stroke. Second, Schutt’s engineering documents were trapped in static 2D files, presenting a major productivity hurdle for engineers used to the speed and power of their 3D modeling software from Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp.

“We needed a straightforward way to get our existing, older designs into a 3D format so we could update them,” says Tony VanHoutin, Schutt’s lead design engineer. “We could not compromise on precision because we need a perfect fit of all helmet components, including shells, padding, faceguards, and fasteners across our full range of child and adult sizes.”

The traditional method for converting products with complex shapes into 3D models is using calipers, tape measures, and micrometers to get measurements; plugging the dimensions into spreadsheets; and keying these dimensions into CAD models. Accuracy requires a lot of measurements, high-level spatial abilities, specialized engineering expertise, many professional staff hours, and a lot of luck.


Solution: Digitization

Schutt engineers determined that digital scanning was the best solution. The company purchased an affordable Desktop 3D coordinate measurement machine (CMM) digitizer from FARO Technologies—essentially a wand you run over the contours of an object to capture the surface data. This solution removed the complexity of extrapolating discrete measurements into complex surface shapes. Digitization tools, however, typically create an ASCII point cloud of x, y, and z geometric data. In order to import it the data into CAD software, it’s converted into the industry-standard IGES data exchange format. That file is then converted, by a second IGES translator, into the CAD software’s native file format. This multistep translation into and out of IGES is only as reliable as the software code in the translators. Too often, errors pile up over several conversions, and features that are scanned become corrupted before they reach the CAD model. 


The value of native translation

Fortunately, Schutt discovered, whose reverse-engineering product can take a point cloud from a digitizer in real time and convert it directly into a native parametric CAD model, in this case a SolidWorks SLDPRT file. transforms SolidWorks software into a dynamic digitizing platform, accurately conveying points, open lines, closed lines, open splines, closed splines, circles, arcs, rectangles, and more.

“We just run the stylus over the ‘old’ helmet, and it appears as a fully operational fully parametric SolidWorks model with none of the mistakes, compromises, or limitations of geometry run through the IGES format,” said VanHoutin. Once the model is in SolidWorks software, VanHoutin’s team can modify, update, and elaborate on the design with ease. “What would take weeks with rulers, Excel, IGES translations, and file repairs, takes a few minutes with the desktop 3D CMM digitizer, and SolidWorks,”
says VanHoutin.


Schutt is using SolidWorks as its CAD tool because of its combination of ease of use and power. It intuitively handles all the surfaces of the pre-existing helmets and makes it simple for VanHoutin’s team to improve on them for its next generation of helmets. “SolidWorks is user friendly but it’s just as powerful as more expensive and complicated software,” VanHoutin said. “It handles all the complex organic surfaces. There’s nothing I can’t do with it.”

Additional applications mean more value

As a SolidWorks Certified Gold Product, software is integrated directly into SolidWorks, creating a single-window consolidated environment providing full access to both software products, yet treating them as one.

In addition to converting old designs into 3D models, the team can turn one-off custom designs, like the helmet they made for Super Bowl winning quarterback Eli Manning, into standard product offerings. Engineers simply digitize the custom helmet, incorporate it into a SolidWorks CAD model, and mass-produce it, netting the same weeks-to-minutes savings. This reverse-engineering process is also standard for the development of new stainless steel, carbon steel, and titanium faceguard configurations.


Schutt also uses’s software for inspection. When Schutt engineers receive a helmet or faceguard from a new mold, they digitize it into SolidWorks and compare the actual product to the CAD design. Schutt avoids weeks of scrap, rework, and redesign and thousands of dollars in potential costs.

“We’re eliminating time, cost, and risk at every step,” explains VanHoutin. “With the and SolidWorks software combination, we’re capturing data quickly, we’re avoiding the errors of translation, and we’re verifying, from the earliest possible moment, that what we make is actually what we designed. That’s good for our business and, most importantly, good for our athletes.”


•  Schutt Sports, maker of the professional player’s first choice in football helmets, recently wanted to upgrade its product line.

•  The company needed a way to convert old, static 2D designs into 3D CAD files.

•  Using a combination of SolidWorks CAD and software, Schutt Sports engineers can now capture designs in minutes versus weeks, and update them
with ease.

Review Article Be the first to review this article
Featured Video
ECAD Designer - Data Connectivity for Delphi at Auburn Hills, MI
Mechanical Engineer II - Requisition ID 090445 for L3 Technologies at New York, NY
Estimator / Bidder for Rulon International at Saint Augustine, FL
Upcoming Events
33rd Annual Coordinate Metrology Society Conference at Snowbird UT - Jul 17 - 21, 2017
EMO Hannover 2017 at Hannover Germany - Sep 18 - 23, 2017
The 30th Annual Integrated Process Excellence Symposium & Training at Wyndham Grand Bonnet Creek Resort Orlando FL - Sep 18 - 20, 2017
Additive Manufacturing Conference 2017 at Knoxville Convention Center 701 Henley Street Knoxville TN - Oct 10 - 12, 2017

Internet Business Systems © 2017 Internet Business Systems, Inc.
595 Millich Dr., Suite 216, Campbell, CA 95008
+1 (408)-337-6870 — Contact Us, or visit our other sites:
AECCafe - Architectural Design and Engineering EDACafe - Electronic Design Automation GISCafe - Geographical Information Services TechJobsCafe - Technical Jobs and Resumes ShareCG - Share Computer Graphic (CG) Animation, 3D Art and 3D Models
  Privacy Policy Advertise