AT TEAM WENDY … IT’S PERSONAL
At Team Wendy, business is personal. Decisions are made in part to honor the legacy of Wendy Moore, with an ever-present goal of preventing TBI in the men and women we protect so that their loved ones don’t feel the same void as our founder and his family. We have a large banner on our manufacturing floor that says, “The work you do every day saves lives.” You can feel that sense of pride and value in the work we do simply by talking to the members of our team. She is always with us, and we know she would be proud of the work her legacy inspired. — Jose Rizo-patron
Q: Describe the modern ballistic helmet.
A: Modern ballistic helmets are typically a composite matrix that encapsulates high-strength fibers. The fibers “catch” a projectile similar to the way a baseball mitt catches a ball, but obviously these are dealing with much higher energies.
The specific “recipe” of a helmet is proprietary to each manufacturer, but the fiber utilized in the newest and lightest helmets is primarily ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE), due to its high strengthto-weight ratio. Most law enforcement units require that their ballistic helmets stop projectiles specified as level IIIA according to NIJ STD 0108.01/0101. This means that the helmet will stop a 9mm FMJ RN, a .357 SIG FMJ FN and .44 Magnum SJHP.
In addition, most military helmets are required to stop a variety of fragmentation (different sizes and velocities) and provide blunt impact protection.
Q: In general, how have helmets changed through the years?
Prior to the 1960s, helmets were predominantly made of steel and intended only to stop fragmentation. Dupont later introduced a material called aramid fiber, which would become known by the trademark Kevlar, and is now synonymous with “bulletproof material.” Kevlar helmets became the standard from the mid-1980s until the early 2000s and allowed helmets to stop common handgun bullets, in addition to providing fragmentation protection. More recently, the introduction of polyethylene shells made for a significant reduction in weight while still maintaining ballistic performance.
“TEAM WENDY WAS FOUNDED … AS A MEMORIAL TO HIS DAUGHTER, WENDY, WHO PASSED AWAY FROM A TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI).”
Q: How will helmets be different in 5 or 10 years?
A: Historically, the helmet has been worn to serve a single purpose—to provide ballistic protection. These days, we’re equally focused on creating systems-based helmets that allow the user more seamless integration of communications systems, NODS, etc. Systems integration will continue to be a focus for helmets serving elite users in the coming years, and we will continue to concentrate on the development of new and evolving capabilities that allow our products to better serve that function while offering optimal protection. Further, the industry continues to look at new materials and ways to manufacture them to continue to drive down weight while increasing protection.
Q: What makes Team Wendy’s helmets different?
A: Rather than focusing on the shell, we begin the design process for our helmets from the inside out, leveraging our vast experience in blunt impact protection. Because we focused exclusively on perfecting our pad set offering and our patented CAM FIT Retention System for a few years, the fit and comfort of our helmets is second to none. Our CAM FIT disperses pressure evenly around the circumference of the head, eliminating pressure points that typically arise when a retention system only locks in at two points.
It’s not just the design of the padding and retention, but significant focus is also given to the form of our helmet shells. By studying the anthropometry of head sizes and ergonomics of comfortable fit, we developed a unique sizing scheme that uses adjustable comfort pads to provide a better, more optimized fit than the traditional four-shell size approach, with the side benefit of making sizing simpler for those procuring the helmet.
Our ballistic helmet also has a unique and distinctive shape that unlike most ballistic helmets is not round, which makes it immediately recognizable as an “EXFIL” and passes the ever important “mirror test.” While optimal protection and fit are always our top priorities, we are constantly thinking about how the helmet platform can be used most effectively to integrate other technology, such as lights, communications systems, NODS, etc. while balancing loads. We pride ourselves on offering scalable helmet systems for elite operators that allow them to scale up or down for the mission requirement. They may not need to utilize every feature of our helmets on a daily basis, but when they do, our systems-based helmets ensure that they are ready.
Q: Describe the testing process.
A: All of our helmets, whether ballistic or non-ballistic, undergo extensive internal and third-party testing to ensure that they meet the necessary requirements we’re trying to meet, be it for ballistics, mountaineering, white water, alpine, etc.
Our EXFIL Ballistic helmet meets the third-party Nij-accreditation at level IIIA according to NIJ STD 0106.01
/ 0108.01, which means that the helmet will stop common handgun threats. In addition to stopping the rounds, we also measure for backface signature/deformation. At 1,4001,450 ft/sec, a 9mm FMJ RN must produce less than 25mm of backface signature/deformation on an NIJ clay headform to be acceptable to Team Wendy’s standards.
Additionally, the helmet is tested for resistance to fragmentation that may be experienced during blast related events. This is simulated using a standardized cylindrical projectile and tested to see at what velocity the projectile is expected to penetrate the shell 50% of the time. This is a standardized armor test method known as the V50 value, and for our helmet is ≥ 2,400 ft/sec for the 17gr projectile.
For impact testing we utilize internal instrumented drop towers in accordance with a variety of military, Department of Transportation (DOT) and sport helmet standards. Helmets are placed onto a headform and dropped from a set height onto a variety of different surfaces while the acceleration/deceleration of the headform is measured. For our ballistic and carbon helmets, they meet and exceed the ACH blunt impact protection requirements of < 150G peak acceleration when impacted at 10 ft/sec—our ballistic averages less than 70G across all temperatures and locations. While a perfect correlation between acceleration and brain injury doesn’t exist, this is still below many suggested acceleration levels that could be associated with concussion. Each test helmet is impacted 14 times; two times each in seven locations, at cold (14°F), ambient (68°F) and hot (130°F) conditions.
Additionally, we perform other testing within the MIL-STD-810 test suite, such as UV light exposure, high-altitude exposure, blowing sand exposure, vibration testing, resistance to chemicals and field agents, and salt water immersion. Other, less quantitative testing, involves testing our helmets with an ever-changing landscape of accessories and attachments to ensure users have as many options as possible when setting up their helmet.
Q: What else comes to mind?
A: Our mission is to research, design, develop and deliver the most innovative, purpose-built and impact-mitigating products and technologies on the market. We place a strong focus on research, particularly the causes and prevention of TBI. According to the CDC, an estimated 1.7 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI) annually. Of them, 1.365 million are treated and released from an emergency department, while 275,000 are hospitalized and 52,000 don’t survive. TBI is a contributing factor to nearly one-third (30.5%) of all injury-related deaths in the United States. About 75% of TBIS that occur each year are concussions or other forms of mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI).
Team Wendy has joined forces with Brown University, Drexel University and Sandia National Laboratories to conduct comprehensive research on traumatic brain injury.
“… THE INDUSTRY CONTINUES TO LOOK AT NEW MATERIALS AND WAYS TO MANUFACTURE THEM TO CONTINUE TO DRIVE DOWN WEIGHT WHILE INCREASING PROTECTION.”
With a $4.75-million grant from the Office of Naval Research, the three-year study aims to produce new insights into how traumatic injuries form in the brain and develop new helmet technologies to help prevent them. Accomplishing that will require a comprehensive, multilevel understanding of how forces are transmitted from a helmet to the skull, from the skull through brain tissue, and ultimately to the individual neurons and axons that are damaged leading to TBI.
To achieve this, the effort brings together research spanning from the microscopic level of brain cells to the macroscopic level of helmets and is incredibly unique in that respect. Our team leads work on the macroscopic scale, developing an integrated sensor system within the padding of a helmet that is capable of measuring linear and angular accelerations, as well as force distributions experienced across the skull during impact. The system will be capable of providing measurements in a lab setting, such as when on a test headform, and eventually on a human wearer.
As previously mentioned, there is currently no perfect correlation to determine whether a brain injury will result from a given head impact. The aim of this effort is to develop a detailed brain injury model so data collected via the helmet can be used to predict likelihood of injury following an impact to the head.
With a better understanding of how traumatic brain injuries occur, the study is also working to improve helmet testing methods and develop new materials and designs for the next generation of helmets and protective equipment. TW
Above: The EXFIL Ballistic SL is available in black, coyote brown, ranger green and multi- cam.
Walk onto the manufacturing floor at Team Wendy, and you’ll find a banner that says, “The work you do every day saves lives.”