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Using CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) to Improve Aerodynamic Performance of Helmets for Sports and Motorcycle Racing Games at the Olympics

[Vol. 1] OGK KABUTO develops helmets for athlete cyclists and motorcycle drivers. They undertake CFD analyses in early phase of product development as well as wind tunnel experiments to simulate how inner geometry affects the performance. Having introduced the first aero components in this particular field using highly developed technology, OGK KABUTO aims for further improvement of aerodynamics and minimization of development phase.

The businesses of OGK KABUTO consist of three main categories: development of helmets for motorcycle drivers, athlete cyclists, and children. Not only they hold the largest market share in Japan, they are also dominant helmet manufacturer in Asian market. OGK KABUTO became independent from OGK CO.,LTD, a major manufacturer of bicycle seats for children in 1982. Since then, they have been developing the helmets specially designed for motorcycles and bicycles. They are one of the few manufacturers that develop helmets for both motorcycle drivers and bicycle cyclists.

The strengths of their products are high aerodynamic performance and light weight, which were achieved through unusual development approach such as applying unique non-spherical geometry at the time where all other helmets were considered round. OGK KABUTO has been the official sponsor for Japanese national athlete teams for the Olympics and other sport championships, where their products are used by participants. As well as being recognized for the remarkable technology, they are also known for reliable credibility, which is proved by their products that meet safety standards of various countries across the globe.

Picture 1: Mr. Hiroshi Ota
Product Development Sec., R&D Dept., OGK KABUTO Co.,Ltd.

Products that Satisfied Severe Safety Standards

Mr. Hiroshi Ota (Picture 1) is in charge of product development and aerodynamic investigations needed for satisfying safety regulations in each country. Whether it is for motorcycles or bicycles, requirements for attaining safety standards and means of testing differ depending on countries. For example, the acquisition of Snell Standards, an US standard for applying a helmet shell (the outer layer) made of FRP (fiber reinforced plastics) is and one of the world’s most difficult specifications to attain. In order to acquire this specification, laminate configuration around FRP must be efficiently constructed. Another example is a quality test to evaluate product strength used in European regulations, which involves colliding helmet to rocks. To pass this test, they made sure that the product satisfies the required strength by conducting experiments of prototypes that were manufactured at real time, and changed the laminate configuration where necessary, which was then used to produce improved versions for further experiment examinations. OGK KABUTO conducts research on new materials and computational simulations.

One more factor to bear in mind is shapes of human heads, which differ depending on continents. Athletes in the Europe tend to have long and slim heads. This means that M sized helmets made for European athletes are too small for Japanese athletes, even if the size is doubled. Using the scanned database of various head geometries and the experience from the past development, OGK KABUTO develops highly capable helmets that meet design requirements.

Picture 2: Akiyoshi Kuchino, Manager, Planning and Public Relations Sec., R&D Dept., OGK KABUTO Co.,Ltd.

Aerodynamic performance of helmets is equally important to consider. “Helmets could change the finishing time by several seconds, especially when used in triathlon and track races that involve long distance. Validating the aerodynamic performance of helmets is important for races, where a second loss could be fatal,” says Mr. Akiyoshi Kuchino (Picture 2) .

Wind tunnel experiments have played a significant role in development. Since before they introduced CFD tool, they have conducted wind tunnel experiments using mockup models and aerodynamic analyses. The experiments took place in the company facility in collaboration with Mr. Akira Azuma (Professor Emeritus of Tokyo University), Mr. Nagakatsu Kawahata (Professor, Nihon University) and Mr. Kunio Yasuda (Professor, Nihon University). Seeing how CFD was used to lower cost in vehicle industry, OGK KABUTO started considering its application.

Fig 1: Analysis results of streamlines used for PR purpose. Visualized images are used to show strengths of the products effectively.
Click to enlarge.

Analysis Images for PR Purposes

OGK KABUTO introduced SC/Tetra aiming to minimize development time, reduce cost, and visualize the air flow. Although tuft flow visualization was possible in wind tunnel experiments, details could not be identified. It was also difficult to evaluate the effect of changing the geometry by few millimeters. In addition, experiments were costly in terms of number of tasks. The initial prototype is first created by putty, which is used to create a wearable mockup; this will be then evaluated in wind tunnel experiments. The entire process must be repeated. “Mockups cannot be easily made. Some required several years to develop,” says Mr. Ota.

“Another benefit of SC/Tetra was that the analysis results can be used for PR purposes,” says Mr. Kucniho (Fig 1). As the company is well-known for products with high aerodynamic performance, OGK KABUTO considered that visualizing the air flow would be an effective means of conveying the product capability to their users.

OGK KABUTO says that the analysis results are effective visual materials for PR purposes. “Visual impacts are astonishing. We use SC/Tetra to generate images for PR purposes, as we can adjust the position and colors as to show beautiful details of mesh elements,” says Mr. Ota.

​​*All product and service names mentioned are registered trademarks or trademarks of their respective companies.
*Contents and specifications of products are as of June 1, 2015 and subject to change without notice. We shall not be held liable for any errors in figures and pictures, or any typographical errors in this brochure.

Company Details


Founded September 1982
Products Helmets and related products for motorcycles, bicycles (for children and adults), and sports
Representative Shuji Kimura, CEO
No. of Employees 87 (as of October 2014)
Capital 20 million JPY
Location Nagata, Higashiosaka-shi, Osaka (Japan)



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