Product development of a nickel-plated fire fighting helmet : a thesis presented in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of MTech in Product Development at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
This thesis describes the development of a fire fighting helmet for the French market for manufacture by Pacific Helmets (NZ) Ltd, including the major technical development of a process for electroplating unsaturated polyester resin (UP resin). The need for this study arose from an opportunity identified by PHNZ to enter into the French fire fighting market. The major technical problem was that the helmet shell must be manufactured from nickel-plated UP resin. However, no current technology existed for plating UP resin with a suitably high quality or durability that would withstand the user conditions of a fire fighting helmet. Literature from existing technologies for plating of similar materials, and attempts at plating UP resin for decorative purposes were reviewed, along with advice from Industry experts in order to understand plastics plating technology and to develop potential methods for plating UP resin for this application. An iterative hypothesis generation and trial process was used to test potential plating methods in a laboratory on samples of UP resin. A successful methodology was identified. Following this an electroplating pilot plant was constructed and the successful plating methods were used to plate full UP resin helmet shells. Works-like prototypes were constructed using helmet shells that had been successfully applied with a quality and durable electroplated coating suitable for fire fighting helmets. The prototypes were successfully tested against the required product safety standards. The project concluded with the successful development of a works-like prototype of a Nickel-plated fire-fighting helmet for the French market that met all consumer and technical requirements identified. Going forward, Pacific Helmets (NZ) Ltd plan to showcase the product at the next annual International Fire-fighting trade show. Plans are currently underway to expand the production facility in Wanganui in order to accommodate the additional helmet production.