With its return to the U.S. market Schuberth Helmets invited Motorcycle USA to Magdeburg, Germany for a tour of its factory operations. The main production facility manufactures all the company’s helmet designs, from one-off Formula 1 racing prototypes to thousands of hard hats and protective helmets for the mining and construction industries. While not its largest production in unit volume, the company’s motorcycle helmets make up 60% of its revenue. During our visit, we witnessed the production process of Schuberth’s new C3 flip-up motorcycle helmet.
First, materials for the C3 fiberglass composite shell are prepared. Long sheets of fiberglass cloth are cut into hemispherical sections, one each for the left and right side of the helmet. Other materials in the outer shell are cut as needed, with the DOT-spec C3 given a Dyneema layer, which improved penetration resistance.
The first step of helmet production is the creation of the composite shell. Fiberglass
and other shell materials are cut and placed in molds, and mixed with resin compounds.
Heat and pressure produce the hard exterior, which is given a tracking chip.
The cut fiberglass and Dyneema are taken to the next work station, where the fiberglass pieces are stretched over molds and the excess material trimmed. The two sections are then joined together, along with the Dyneema layer, inside the final shell mold, which comes in variable sizes. A resin composition is mixed and added to the mold. The actual “bag molding” process was not filmed at the request of Schuberth, but a bag is injected inside the mold and filled with air, which exerts pressure from the interior. Heat and pressure fuse the materials into the hardened shell.
A tracking ID tag is affixed on the helmet upon its removal from the molding machine. Unique to each helmet produced, the tag will be electronically updated along every step of the production process, recording dates and other info like the worker involved in each step.
The raw shell is carved into its final shape by robotic water jets cutters.
A technician inspects every tenth shell for proper fitment of hard parts.
The raw shell then moves to a cutting station, where a robot carves out the precise shell shape via high-powered jets of water. After removal a worker inspects each cut piece and updates the helmet tracking ID. Every tenth helmet receives a more thorough inspection, with the hard parts upcoming in the assembly process fitted to ensure quality control.
At this stage the shell goes through a series of painting and buffing stages. Coats of primer are applied on the painting assembly line. The helmets are then sanded and buffed by human and robotic means, removing imperfections. After several coats, including the final base paint colors, the shell moves on to the decal stations.
The helmet shell undergoes a series of runs on the paint line, with human and robotic
means grinding and buffing the shell to its final painting coats. If decals are needed,
they are applied by hand via trained technicians, who must undergo a three-month
apprenticeship. The shells recieve on last finish coat before heading to final assembly.
Trained technicians require a three-month apprenticeship before working on the decal line. Using soap and water, every decal is applied by hand, with approximately 500 a day going through the shop. Upon completion a final finish coat is applied.
With the outer shell completed, it’s on to final assembly. At this stage, all the interior components are added piecemeal at a series of worker stations. Schuberth does its best to maintain multiple parts sources, including in-house production when economical. Some of the more critical components are fabricated off-site in partnership with other companies. For example the EPS foam liner is produced at another German factory utilizing a steam-injection technique developed by Schuberth.
After a series of components are
added on the assembly line, one
last polish then its in the box and
out the back door.
On the C3 a separate miniature assembly line fabricates the movable chin bar section, which also includes a foam liner sourcing EPP material. The chin bar joins the helmet proper, and the final key components, like the exterior visor and interior retractable sun visor, are added. (The C3’s visor, which features a built-in Pinlock system and is one of the most costly pieces on the helmet, is produced in France.) The final steps of the assembly process include one last polish and a final update to the tracking tag. After that, it’s placed inside the box and ready for shipment.
Schuberth tests helmets at an
onsite lab, replicating all the
required drop tests for various
world helmet standards.
Before the helmets can ship, however, they need to be tested. A special onsite lab tests Schuberth’s helmets to meet safety and testing protocols for the various helmet standards throughout the world. The C3 meets the European ECE 22.05 standard, which requires 10 helmets tested for every batch of 3200 ECE stickers. Schuberth exceeds this minimum testing number. The U.S.-version of the C3 meets DOT standards, which requires the extra addition of the Dyneema layer to meet increased requirements for penetration resistance.
The test lab is crucial in research and development and Schuberth’s factory holds a full team of design engineers. The R&D department is busy developing not only the latest in motorcycle helmets, but designs for military helmets and protective headwear in industrial and emergency services like firefighting and police work.