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SOLIDWORKS Elite Specialists

Changing the Sporting World for the Better

Thursday August 22, 2019 at 11:13am

When Masuri Helmets approached Visitech’s Alan Meeks to redesign the cricket helmet, it was a project that called upon all the skills he had developed for over 40 years as a designer. Solid Solutions recently met Alan to find out what brought him from being an illustrator in the 1970s to running his successful design consultancy and how CAD design has evolved over those years.

Alan’s career has covered many industries and has recently brought him to the world of sport when he was asked to design the next generation of cricket helmets.

 
 

The need for additional protection in cricket helmets was made clear after the tragic death of Phillip Hughes, who suffered a blow to the back of his head from a cricket ball in 2014. Designed in SOLIDWORKS by Alan, Masuri Helmets have released their latest product, the Stem Guard. It adds extra protection to the back of the neck and is the first in the world to offer this kind of feature.

Recent times have brought together Visitech, B M Injection (also a Solid Solutions customer) and Masuri, a supplier of Sports safety equipment. Masuri is involved in the sport of cricket from the governing bodies, the professional players to the enthusiastic weekend player. 

Masuri recognising the growing demands of the sport and with Managing Director Sam Miller on board relocated to Twyford, Hampshire in 2011 and set about switching manufacturing to the UK. Having the design, development and manufacture sourced locally in the UK gives Masuri better control over quality, costs and the production time.

“The original Masuri helmets were handmade from foam-filled, thin fibreglass shells. There was a need for something safer and easier to produce in large numbers. B M Injection was more than capable of producing them but there wasn’t yet a design of helmet to do just that.”

Tim Combes’ recommendation was to approach Alan Meeks at Visitech.

“Tim and I have had a long history and have worked together on many projects, so to get together with Masuri and thrash out what was required was a fairly straightforward process. Masuri knew what they wanted, something that looked better but in-keeping with their traditional helmet design and that met all the new safety standards.”

Designing the Vision & Legacy series

The design of the visor, how it’s mounted and the design of the peak are all critical. Masuri has recently launched a “Legacy” helmet range. It is a cost-reduced product for a larger market but still meets the safety standards. With the “Vision” and another top of the range Masuri Helmets, the design exceeds the requirements of the safety standards. They are made to the highest quality standards with optimum materials, finishes and player visibility.

For Alan, there were two key areas when designing the new helmet. Firstly, the shell assembly had to absorb the impact of a ball travelling over 80mph to prevent possible concussion and any form of injury to the scalp. The second and most challenging requirement was to create a helmet and visor design that prevented the ball from reaching the player’s face but didn’t impede their vision. This is where SOLIDWORKS Simulation proved its worth.

“It would be easy to make a visor that closed up all the gaps where a ball could get through, but if the player couldn’t see properly through it, he wouldn’t wear it. Using SOLIDWORKS Simulation to explore the strengths and weakness of the helmet structure, I was able to get the best out of the mouldings with the minimum amount of metal and plastic.”

Masuri has been so impressed with all the products from the Vision Series to the Legacy range and the service they get from B M Injection, that the relationship and the business partnership has grown from strength to strength.

                               

 

The world mourns the death of Phillip Hughes

When Phil Hughes was tragically killed in November 2014 by being hit by a ball on the neck, Masuri responded very quickly to support Cricket Australia and immediately got involved in the investigations into the causes of Hughes’ death.

Twenty-20 cricket provides a more interesting way of playing cricket but the combination of quicker attacking bowlers and the need to make every ball count has led to a game that has become faster and more aggressive. The ball is being bowled faster and higher and the batsmen are taking more risks. Phil Hughes miss-hit a “bouncer” and the ball was deflected straight at his head. He leaned back and turned his head away from the ball leaving his neck exposed. Cricketers are aware of the dangers of a ball bowled short known as a “bouncer” and the rules do attempt to limit the way these are used.

“Design is so often a compromise between function and ergonomics and the Vision series was developed as a good balance between player protection and player usability. The shape of the helmet behind the visor was lowered slightly to improve protection without restricting the player’s movement or vision. However, no one could have predicted the severity of what happened to Phil Hughes.”

The Stem Guard

This incident highlighted the need to constantly be looking to improve safety equipment. Following the tragedy Visitech, B M Injection and Masuri worked very closely and quickly together to produce the “Stem Guard” which is a clip-on addition to the Masuri helmet range that protects the vulnerable part of the player’s neck on either side behind the visor.

“The hard shell of the helmet cannot be extended into the area where Phil Hughes was hit because the player would be unable to move his head around freely and face the ball in normal play. The solution was, therefore, to design a flexible add-on system that would cover the vulnerable area of the neck as the player faced the bowler but had enough “give” to allow the player unrestricted movement of their head.”

 

This incident highlighted the need to constantly be looking to improve safety equipment. Following the tragedy Visitech, B M Injection and Masuri worked very closely and quickly together to produce the “Stem Guard” which is a clip-on addition to the Masuri helmet range that protects the vulnerable part of the player’s neck on either side behind the visor.

“The hard shell of the helmet cannot be extended into the area where Phil Hughes was hit because the player would be unable to move his head around freely and face the ball in normal play. The solution was, therefore, to design a flexible add-on system that would cover the vulnerable area of the neck as the player faced the bowler but had enough “give” to allow the player unrestricted movement of their head.”

Alan, BM injection and Masuri continue to work closely to raise the safety standards in Cricket and other sports. The Stem Guard itself is available now and currently being used by professional cricketers across the world.


About Alan Meeks' Design Career

The 1970s, the early years before being an established Design Consultant Alan was a fresh-faced graduate looking for a career in Graphics or Art rather than Engineering Design. Having studied the subject at Basingstoke Technical College (now BCoT – College of Technology), it wasn’t long before he put his product design skills to use.

“In 1975 I got my first job as an illustrator for a plastics moulding company (ITW Fastex Ltd). However, after a few months, they ran out of illustration work so they put me in the design department. I stayed there for 9 years designing and developing products, mostly for the automotive industry.”

At that time, long before 3D CAD, Alan used pen and ink on polyester film to draw up designs and soon became a very proficient draftsman and designer.

                                                                                                    

“I worked very closely with customers and also worked in tool design, tool making and was also involved with the moulding process itself. The skills and knowledge I gained at this time gave me a very solid grounding in product design and manufacturing.”

Racing Years   During his period working at ITW, Alan’s focus changed from focusing on a career path to dreams of working in motorcycle racing.

“Working at ITW was great because the company, and in particular the tool room manager, Tim Combes, allowed me the full use of their tool room and model shop facilities to keep my bike in working order.”   However, after nine years of competitive racing, motorcycle championships remained a dream.

“I realised I wasn’t going to be the next world champion, I had a mortgage, a girlfriend and increasing commitments, so I looked for a better job.”


Mars Electronics – 1980s

To get a better job Alan needed to upskill himself and the emergence of 2D CAD was the obvious route. It wasn’t long before an opportunity at Mars Electronics came along with almost double Alan’s existing salary as a project manager.

“Mars (Electronics) were investing heavily in CAD at the time and eventually, after a false start, installed several seats of Hewlett Packard’s ME10/ME30. I loved it and found it a very powerful design tool for its time.”


                          

 

DraftSight 2D CAD

“Mars (Electronics) was a great company to work for but their core product was becoming dated and in the four years I worked for them, the industry they were supplying to was changing very quickly.”   “The first half of 1980 saw a boom for Mars ultimately, employing nearly 1000 members of staff, but rapidly growing competition in Europe and the Far East meant that their massive share of a steady world market started to diminish.”

 


Birth of Visitech – the 1990s

“Throughout my employment, I had been doing a little work on the side with small design jobs but also with a lot of graphic design projects. I still thought I wanted a career in Graphic Design, so I inquired about the redundancy package. Mars told me what they would give me if it went through, so I was determined to go for it. The package wasn’t particularly generous but more than enough to start a Graphic Design business… so, I set the wheels in motion.”

With a company name Visitech, a play on visual and technical design, Alan put together a business plan and set up a Barclays business account and even started trading. But like any business venture, it is never plain sailing.

The dream of being a graphic designer didn’t last long though. Soon Alan realised there were more work and more money in product design.

“I went back to the drawing board and offered mechanical design services using pen and paper. I took on a lot of work for Mars (Electronics) and there was growing pressure from them and other customers to buy a CAD system.”


Enter Solid Solutions

“I investigated the whole CAD market, but because I had learnt how to use it and because of the help that Solid Solutions gave me, I bought one seat of ME10/ME30.”

(ME10: A software Solid Solutions used to support in the early 1990s which became Solid Designer, a Co-Create product. No longer supported).


Moving to SOLIDWORKS – 1998

Renting two seats of SolidDesigner (now a PTC product) was proving costly. “It was horrendously expensive and with a general depression in UK manufacturing during the late 1990s I needed to rethink my whole business.”

Alan said goodbye to the contractors, stopped his support contract for Solid Designer and went back to working from home. But by this time there was a new kid on the block, SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD, which offered professional-grade 3D modelling and it wasn’t long before Alan and Mars Electronics joined Solid Solutions in moving to SOLIDWORKS. (SOLIDWORKS was released in 1995)

“Mars Electronics must have been thinking the similar things and they moved from SolidDesigner to SOLIDWORKS in or around 1998. MEI (as they were then known) asked if I would do a short contract with them developing a brand new product for the cash handling industry. This meant I had to work on-site at Winnersh and I had to learn how to use SOLIDWORKS 98. That was my cue to ditch Solid Designer and move to SOLIDWORKS. It’s been SOLIDWORKS ever since.”


Designing Through the ‘Naughties’ – 2000s

Since adopting SOLIDWORKS with Solid Solutions, Alan has worked on a variety of products in numerous industries including the automotive, aerospace, white goods and leisure industry.

This experience in sheet metal, castings, composites and glass allows Alan to work on some unique projects for both large corporations and one-off products for private individuals. Renowned inventor Dr John Taylor enlisted Visitech’s services to help with the creation of the now-famous Corpus Clock with its time eating Chronophage.

The Corpus Clock is the invention of Dr John Taylor and was created with the help of several engineers and artists including Alan Meeks. The Graticule or Measuring Dish for the Corpus Clock was designed and created by Visitech using SOLIDWORKS and CNC machined in aluminium and silver before gold and rhodium plating. It was unveiled at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge on 19th September 2008 by Prof Stephen Hawking.

                                                                            

You have most probably seen some of Alan’s work on the big screen recently.

Brushing shoulders with Hollywood Alan has “experience in the film industry, supporting costume departments for Warner and Disney. Including several of the Star Wars films. In contrast, he also has experience in jig and tool design, in special-purpose machinery, complex mechanisms and engine design”. There’s nothing like bringing you back to earth than designing a crankshaft, connecting rod and sump!      

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