FTR Bio: Name: Richard Harfoot
Company: : D3O Impact Protection Specialists
Job: : Motorsports Business Development Manager
What is D3O?: : It’s the trade name of the ‘orange goo’ that gave the company its name
Richard Harfoot loves taking his work home with him.
His mind is always on the job, even when he’s riding the 30,000 plus miles from home to work at the laboratories of ‘orange goo’ creators D3O each year.
The 150-mile round trip to and from the impact protection specialists‘ headquarters means he can thoroughly test the finished products. If they don’t fit properly or feel uncomfortable, they won’t make production without some changes.
So it’s pretty likely the prototype of every elbow, shoulder, knee, back or chest protector in the new range of Triumph clothing has been put through its paces by the Motorsports Business Development Manager during his daily commute.
His comments on comfort and design come on top of the rigorous testing already carried out at the London headquarters in extremes of wet, cold, heat and ambient temperatures.
Developed by real riders
As he begins to explain the benefits of “real riders” working on the product, a weight within a glass drop rig crashes down on a limb protector with a hefty thud. “That’s the equivalent of a punch from Mike Tyson or a full drop onto your body on a motorcycle,” he says.
Readings are then taken by a team of people in white lab coats to ensure the distinctly orange D3O is doing exactly what it should every time.
Taking D3O from material development, concept, design and wooden prototype mould through to testing and mass production can take as long as two years, with many of the 50 people employed at D3O involved in the process.
The secret of the goo
Put simply, that means the molecules in the flexible substance inside the protector lock together to stiffen on sudden impact to dissipate impact energy and reduce transmitted force. Advanced chemistry lesson over.
The ‘goo’ was first discovered by the business’s then owner in 2002 as he strove to protect himself against bumps and bruises while snowboarding. He worked out how to incorporate the properties of the dilatant (or goo) into different polymer structures. D3O protectors are tested to CE Level 1 and 2 before being cast into moulds and fitted in the jackets and jeans in Triumph’s Spring/Summer range.
Tested to the limit
“Triumph is the first major motorcycle manufacturer we’ve worked with and we’re delighted because, like us, they design their products in the UK and like us, they test everything that leaves their factory. There is a very definite synergy between the two businesses,” says Richard.
It was also the first motorcycle manufacturer to integrate D3O knuckle protection in its glove range, but the product’s uses are limitless and already include an impressive array of customers.
They include the Canadian skiing team (body and limb); US Special Forces (body); the RAF (knee); American footballers (headguards and body); Premier League goalkeepers’ (gloves), and even the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt (Enertor insoles) to name a few.
Yet you wouldn’t associate those finished products with the tray of strangely addictive tactile orange goo which, when pulled apart slowly, is like a cross between plasticine and pizza cheese. But wrap a section of form around your hand and smash it and you won’t feel a thing.
Product Development Technician Alex Beamish is responsible, among other design-related jobs and stands back as he pours the secret mixture into an aluminium mould, created once the testing and tweaking stages are complete.
Eight minutes later the mould is opened and the mixture has undergone a chemical reaction, heated up and expanded to the shape of a limb protector, still warm to the touch and with all the protective qualities of the finished article.
“We know what will work”
Alex, a rider himself and the son of a former Moto cross champion, Steve Beamish, said: “It’s a great help that a lot of us in D3O Lab ride motorcycles, so we know what riders need and we know what will and won’t work when it comes to shape, weight and thickness.”
With that connection front of mind, the D3O team and Triumph’s clothing designers have worked to create gear that, as Richard puts it, “you could wear to your mate’s house, to a bar or just casually… as well as on your bike”.
“That’s the beauty of the product and why it’s so good to be working with a company that understands that protective clothing doesn’t need to just do the job of shock absorption and protection, but also needs to look good as well,” he says.
“We can be very flexible with the product in terms of weight and size so we can effectively create a bespoke solution for whatever designs Triumph come up with and whatever part of the body they are looking to protect.”
Look good and stay safe
So what will the future look like a decade from now for a company that has won the coveted Queen’s Award for Enterprise and is growing a strong reputation in the worlds of sport, industrial workwear, consumer electronics, military and motorcycles?
Richard says: “The potential is immense. We’ve already created protection for phone cases, so one day cracked screens could be a thing of the past thanks to us.
“But if by working with Triumph we can help to reduce serious impact injuries on motorcycles while also allowing riders to look good, then we will have done our job.”
Find out more about D3O