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Designing aerodynamically optimal racing helmets

Courtesy of Smith Optics, Inc. and Byrd Technology Group, LLC

Sports enthusiasts know Idaho-based Smith Optics as innovative leader in high performance sports eyewear, goggles and helmets. A key goal in designing its new Overtake cycling racing helmet was minimum wind drag. To achieve that objective, Smith Optics contracted with NH-based Byrd Technology Group.

Using Coolit, Byrd Technology Group imported the helmet geometry and did the required aerodynamics simulations. Normally Coolit is thought of as electronics cooling software, but it is a great choice for purely aerodynamic problems as well. It solves full Navier-Stokes equations to account for any subsonic fluid flow and it provides powerful turbulence models to deal with complex aerodynamics at high Reynolds numbers.

Because racing helmet geometry is very complex, the design had to be imported from CAD. The model required a very fine mesh to resolve the fine features of the helmet geometry that were key to correctly assessing the drag coefficient. The fine mesh resulted in high cell counts, but Coolit's fast solver crunched through the multi-million cell cases with ease.

The CFD-tested design was then further tested in a wind tunnel. The high-tech helmet passed verification testing with flying colors and was released to Smith Optics racing enthusiasts.

Coolit-computed pressure distribution on Overtake helmet.
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