Lumos: Building a Better, Brighter Bike Helmet
The Lumos Helmet is a “smart” bike helmet designed to make cyclists safer and more visible on the road. It comes with lights that can operate both at night and during the day; turn signals; and even a rear-mounted brake light that lets others know you are slowing or stopping. In all, safer biking through design innovation.
We recently sat down with Lumos founder and CEO Eu-wen Ding to find out how he took the idea for this new type of helmet from idea, to award-winning design, to global sales success.
Dave Moran: Tell me about the Lumos Helmet, which you've described as a “reimagination of a humble product?”
Eu-wen Ding: It’s a bicycle helmet that we added a couple of interesting elements to. It comes with lights integrated into the helmet itself. It’s designed so that on first brush you don’t really notice the lights, and that’s by design. We wanted to build a really natural, good looking helmet in and of itself, but when you turn it on you find that you’ve got these really nice bright lights. Integrated white lights in the front and red lights in the back, and it’s very much a safety feature so that you always have a great set of lights with you and it helps make you more visible, more prominent, more conspicuous on the road.
There are also turn signals built into the helmet and we provide a wireless remote that connects to your handlebars. Again, it’s a safety feature obviously designed for cyclists that ride on the road with traffic so you can tell people what you intend to do. Most bicyclists know you should do hand signals, but not everyone does; and when you do do them, not every motorist understands you or sees them. There’s also a motion sensor in the remote, so that when you slow down it activates a brake light on your helmet to tell people around you and behind you what your intentions are and that you’re changing your speed.
Dave Moran: Is the helmet designed for daytime as well as nighttime use?
Eu-wen Ding: Yes, it’s bright enough to be seen in the day as well. You can use it for any ride at any time.
Dave Moran: Does Lumos offer any other products today?
Eu-wen Ding: Right now this is our only product. It’s our first foray into the market. We are working on new stuff, but right now this is our flagship product.
Dave Moran: How was the helmet idea conceived?
Eu-wen Ding: It started out as nothing more than a side project. Me and my co-founder, Jeff Chen, were looking for something fun to build, and we were both cycling around Boston one day. We were just looking to solve a problem that we were facing ourselves and we didn’t really see anything that was out there that was doing the job that we thought it should be doing. We’re both mechanical engineers, we like building things and hacking things together, and so that’s what we did and we built a pretty ugly but functional prototype.
We were kind of surprised that it seemed pretty useful, so we decided to start showing it to people and getting feedback. We just kept working on it on the side and improving it and one thing led to another and I decided to take it seriously and try and make this thing happen.
We spent nearly two years in preparation for a Kickstarter. We knew the concept was popular, we just didn’t know how far we could take it. So Kickstarter was the ideal place to have that tested. It went really well, that was way back in July of 2015, and it ended up raising over $800,000, which back then was the highest crowd-funded bike helmet campaign ever. That was enough for us to build the product and make it a reality, so at the end of last year we shipped out pretty much all the helmets to our backers.
Dave Moran: How many helmets have you produced so far?
Eu-wen Ding: Over 18,000.
Dave Moran: How many employees do you have at the moment?
Eu-wen Ding: As of today, we have 14 employees, but they’re kind of dispersed all over the place.
Dave Moran: Did you face any design challenges making the helmet work?
Eu-wen Ding: Sure. A lot of design challenges.
Dave Moran: What was the most difficult of those challenges to overcome?
Eu-wen Ding: As with any product, it’s really a matter of combining everything to make everything work together. Like any product, you know what you want, you want this thing that just works, which is easier said than done. Everything impacts everything else.
The LED shape affects the mechanical design, the mechanical design and the waterproofing affects the electronics, and the Bluetooth between the remote and the helmet was really important.
Dave Moran: So how did you prototype it?
Eu-wen Ding: The prototype was tearing apart a traditional helmet and sticking lights on it with hot glue guns. It was as rough as you can imagine. It took us a while. It was a step-by-step process.
Dave Moran: Do you use any CAD or 3D modeling programs to design the helmets?
Eu-wen Ding: Yes, and no. There’s definitely CAD involved, but with the helmet it turns out that the best way to do it is to model it in clay. It’s a lot easier, because there’s so many complexities, so it’s easier to model it in clay so you can get exactly what you want, then you can take a scan and do a CAD model.
Dave Moran: Do you ever use 3D printing to rapid-prototype parts for the helmet?
Eu-wen Ding: Yeah, we do. Lots of our original models were 3D printed, because we were looking into shape and fit at first.
Dave Moran: What’s next for the Lumos team?
Eu-wen Ding: The main goal is to continue to build awareness of Lumos. The number one goal for us right now is to hopefully make this the next big thing in helmets. So if you start seeing it on the streets more often, then I guess we’ve been doing our job right. The origin of our company is we were looking to solve a problem, the problem that we kept forgetting our lights or were riding without lights and feeling invisible and vulnerable on our bikes.
We’re really hoping to be able to turn Lumos into a brand that solves those problems. A brand that stands for cycling safety. If you’re a city cyclist that is looking for great products that make you visible and more safe and less likely to be involved in a collision of any kind, than hopefully you’ll think of Lumos one day. Right now, we’re expanding into a whole bunch of other products and hoping to expand our product pipeline. In the meantime, we’ve got a great community from our Kickstarter and our customer base who constantly give us feedback on our products and are giving us ideas and things like that. We are actively continuing to design and innovate and build new things.
Are you into cycling too? There's tons of cool bike helmets in the GrabCAD Community Library.
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About the author: (Dave Moran)
Dave is GrabCAD’s Content Marketing Manager. He has more than 15 years of experience in writing, journalism, photographer, videography and digital media. His work has been featured in the Boston Globe, the Associated Press, the Hartford Courant, the Huffington Post, PEN New England, AOL.com, and much more.
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