Know the soul of “world’s Arai”! Report about the lecture of ARAI HELMET.

  • 07/06/2016
  • 7923 views

 

 

On the other day, I participated in ‘the lecture of ARAI HELMET at headquarters of ARAI HELMET near Omiya Station, Saitama Prefecture.

Actually, this lecture was well-known for its deepness among our industry.

In front of the Arai’s headquarters. There were some helmets which had fought all over the world, displayed in the windows at right side.

 

About the principle of ARAI HELMET

At first, the lecture started with the speech of ARAI HELMET’s CEO, Mr. Michio Arai.

He talked about the company’s history and principle briefly.

Mr. Arai, who becomes 78 in this year, is surprisingly still an active rider. He is also a heavy user of his own company’s products. Their theme is safety and comfort, and they manufactured helmets with the principle ‘to make the better product than other companies’ even just a little.’Though I will write about it later, the principle influenced designs and structures a lot.

 

‘Forming Department’ to pursue materials and structures

The biggest feature of this lecture was that the participants could actually observe the factory, not just sit and listen.

At first, we went to the Forming Department as the staff to explain guided. In this department, they manufacture the outside of helmets, shell body. The shell body occupies approximate 50% of a helmet’s weight, and it is the important part to absorb and disperse shocks.

 

ARAI HELMET adopted ‘cLc structure’ or other structure better than that to almost all products. Talking roughly, cLc structure is sandwich structure. It is strengthened by laminating materials which had different characteristics and hardening with resin. Tough the important thing is, as you know, material, ARAI HELMET is particular about the material and adopted several kinds of materials including in-house development.

In order to experience the strength of the material adopted actually, the lecturer passed me the ‘test pieces’ used for strength experiment. The pieces were 6 kinds, normal FRP, carbon, Kevlar, two kinds of FRP with super fiber, FRP super fiber  and in-house development carbon.

Though it is hard to see it in this picture, there was a test helmet in the red circle on the top of testing machine. The height was more than 4 m.

 

As I folded each material, FRP with ‘super fiber’ which Arai adopted was very flexible, solid, and hard to bend, compared with normal FRP which is usually used for fenders of motorcycles. The price of this super fiber is 6 times of usual glass fiber, and the strength is three times. As I tried to fold the material called ‘super fiber belt’ made to be like a belt in order to strengthen more, it was very difficult for me, having normal adult man’s muscular strength, to fold it. Though it was just FRP, I was very surprised about that it could change like this depending on development of materials. This super fiber belt is used for the surroundings of shield where it is hard to make strong. Furthermore, those two material are used, one is ‘Dyneema’ which is even used for bullet proof vests, and the other is ‘Zylon’ which is said to be one of the strongest fibers. These two kinds of fiber are not used for all shell body but the top of the head made account of these anti-penetrability. Also, there were several devises like putting the super fiber made thickest at most in the chin guarding part to strengthen more.

 

To cut the shell body, laser cutting by industrial robots were used. Laser cutting which doesn’t apply any blade physically could cut without applying stress to the cut surface.  Also, the molds used for manufacturing those shell bodies were surprisingly made by their own company. In Japan, the helmet manufacturer making its own molds is only ARAI HELMET. The merit is to be able to reflect the design and adjust finely as soon as possible, even during test phase. This equipment make it possible to be particular about the arrangement of three types for one helmet. Now, by operating to mold-making machines in parallel, one mold was made in one day.

 

After shell bodies were finished, all the bodies were checked those thickness or finishing several times. This check was so strict that even 1g lighter/heavier helmet than the regular weight was rejected as defective product. Also, the thinner part was repaired by applying super fiber.

Surprisingly, those processes I wrote so far were merely automated. Skilled workers did those. In ARAI HELMET, complicated processes in manufacturing are not automated but mad by skilled workers.

 

Particularity about safety

Test machine. There were three types of iron anvil, plane, hemisphere, and edged. In this picture, it was hemisphere.

Next, we saw the performance test of helmets at the test hall next to headquarters.

They showed us anti-shock, anti-penetration, strength test of chin straps, and penetration test of shields. ARAI HELMET does tests as not only JIS or, depending on products, SNELL but also its own safety standard tests. Those tests are stricter than fixed standards. The test we actually saw was FIA (like F1) said as the strictest in the world, using helmets made by ARAI. The result was on passing line. Also, though the test is not fixed in SNELL, they do the test to make multisite impacts on one helmet supposing the real accidents.

 

However, the lecturer said “These tests are for measuring numeric data in the same condition, not for recreating the actual accidents.” If the impact speed is shown as km/h, even SNELL, which is said to be strict is about 27-28 km/h. However, in the actual accident, it is possible to become 80 km/h or more. The helmet to be able to absorb the impact can’t be manufactured actually. Thus, there is ARAI HELMET’s ‘R75 SHAPE’ which is popular design principle in these days. R75 SHAPE is to slip and avoid and the strength of shell body to slip. As they were not satisfied with the test result only, it could be seen that they were also strongly particular about the design and safety.

The result of piercing test. This piercing test was also used for the weak part, drain hole.
In order to absorb shocks and reduce the damage to brain, the strength of shell bodies and design are important. Furthermore, the inner liner playing the role of a cushion is also an essential factor.

In Japan, ARAI HELMET only uses multistage formed liner fitting the strength of shell bodies. Multistage formed liner [ means the technology to change the hardness depending on the part to use. It is supposed to protect heads by making the top part soft and the solid inner liner protected the forehead part as the forehead part is hard to strengthen due to the opening of shields.Of course, it is integrally molded.  Among those who read this report, there may be some people to have some questions like why it is needed to change the hardness or why the soft part is needed.

 

However, this is because of thinking about the crushed speed of inner liners when the helmet actually gets shocks. If it is too hard, the brain will get damaged. If it is too soft, it will not be able to absorb shocks. This softness is to change the hardness of inner liners depending on the strength distribution of a shell body. This technology is the very ARAI HELMET’s particularity, which had invented the combination of FRP shell body and inner liners made of styrene foam for the first time in Japan.


Shield piercing test machine. It shot an iron ball into the shield by air pressure like a real bullet of an air gun.

 

Processes of painting and assembly

After watching Forming Department and checking processes, we rode on a bus and visited another factory in the same prefecture.

The painting processes were done there. The lecturer explained that there were two main processes of painting now. One is the way of making with the paint which is used for solid color model or simple graphic model. And the other is the way with water transfer seal. I heard that a lot of complicated graphic model were sold recently, and most of those were made with water transfer seal. Even in this factory, workers did the processes with their hands. The decal was not changed depending on the size of shell bodies, so workers had to adjust those finely with their own hands in this factory.

In connection with this, the water transfer sticker used here look like the one used for plastic models. However, this is not the same because it is fixed with heat after transfer. By doing this, it is not going to be melted by the clear coated as finishing and became tough and durable.

 

After that, we rode on the bus again and moved to another factory. It was to see the assembly processes. There, helmets for exporting were also assembled, and approximately 80% of the helmets were for exporting.

As I watched the assembly line, captivated by the gaudy graphic helmets not sold in Japan, I also could see the polite works of workers there. Some works like cutting the holes of shields were seen as if anyone could do, but they processed those, adjusting finely depending on products. I heard that they did this process very carefully because this process directly influenced the comfort and convenience in using helmets.

Finally, after inspection, the products would be wrapped politely and wait for being delivered. In all, there are about 20 processes, and it takes approximately a month and half to manufacture. Through those steps, the helmet will be delivered to the user.

The result of piercing test. I only saw the little dent in the red circle.


Passion for products

Finally, I lectured some more like the way to treat ARAI’s helmets. I could see their particularity for convenience in the way of desorbing  shields and inner pads. Surprisingly, tough I hadn’t known that because I don’t were glasses, most of ARAI HELMET’s products were adapted for glasses. Furthermore, it is able to adjust finely depending on glasses or person. Recently, I feel that the helmets insisting those adaptions for glasses. However, ARAI HELMET takes it for granted to be able to wear glasses.

 

ARAI HELMET has an institution called in-house touring. It is to transfer the distance of touring the staffs did in a month to points. The top staff rides over 2,000 km/month, and also, CEO, himself, rides over 1,000 km/ month. Staffs, themselves, are the users, and they are working on making products in the attitude, “we don’t want to scamp the products we use.” The products which have gotten the first prize of American national customer satisfaction questionnaire for 13 years in a row are made by staff’s continuous effort for safety and comfort.

 

In June, 2015, ARAI HELMET has released a new flagship model, RX-7X. have a look, it may be seen like past RR5. However, it has been pursued more safety and performance like the lowered shield’s position for safety and aerodynamic performance, and with it, new developed mechanism to enable the visor’s three-dimensional moves. I really want the Webike! users who have read this report to take it in your hand and feel the passion for manufacturing!

 

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