We were approached by the Army Research Lab (ARL) to figure out ways to offset the weight of a soldier’s helmet with all the gear attached to it while maintaining its usability in the field. Read about VLOS testing at Aberdeen Proving Grounds
The standard-issue Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH) weighs a taxing 3.5 lbs before mounting night vision goggles, batteries, and communications equipment. With growing performance demands upsetting thebalance between practicality and improved ballistic protection, the ARL approached Creative Engineering for help in developing novel ways of addressing the inherent conflict between helmet comfort and capabilities.
Directed by the ARL to come up with ways of transparently transferring static head-borne weight to the shoulders, Creative Engineering solved this “impossible” problem by combining innovative design concepts and engineering rigor to develop the Vertical Load Offset System. To begin the design process, the team of engineers researched patents and brainstormed ways of transferring the burdensome weight. Ensuring that the structure supported the helmet in all positions without hindering the range of motion proved to be one of the primary, but not insurmountable challenges throughout its development. The team then built prototypes from the best brainstorm concepts to determine how well they transferred weight and followed head movement. Foresight in the prototype design allowed for easy modification to determine optimal joint type and placement. Early tests proved very promising and users described the helmet as feeling “weightless” and “floating”
Following a successful proof-of-concept prototype demonstration with the ARL, Creative got to work on optimizing the design, fit, weight, and durability of the individual components. Revised designs went on to combine CNC machined aluminum parts with fiberglass flex arms and custom molded carbon fiber. By adjusting the length, width, and thickness of the fiberglass flex arms, the VLOS can offset the entire weight of the helmet and its accessories onto the user’s shoulders while adding less than half a pound to the equipment set.
Early in its inception, the project was featured in Popular Science Magazine. The device has since undergone two generations of development and seen a positive reception in numerous reviews with military equipment experts.
The second generation of the device lowered the overall profile, added a counterbalance system for night vision goggles, and featured a quick releasing anti-snag top joint. The third generation VLOS greatly reduced size and significantly increased load-bearing capacity. Using valuable feedback from soldier testing, a fourth generation VLOS is in development and promises to advance the range of motion and comfort.