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Cool Ideas Support Brain Injury Awareness

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Through its Cool Idea Award, digital manufacturer Protolabs provides in-kind manufacturing services to support development of life-changing products. Philadelphia-based Tozuda is the latest Cool Idea winner with the head-impact sensors it produces. Attached to sports helmets, the sensors change color to bright red when they experience an impact potentially strong enough to cause a concussion. Tozuda used Protolabs’ on-demand molding services to produce components for the sensor.

“Knowing that we’ve helped a company whose invention can help identify the kind of dangerous impacts that could cause long-term brain injuries is a great example of why the Cool Idea Award program exists,” says Brian Peters, chief marketing officer at Protolabs. “We look to grant the award to inventors and entrepreneurs who not only want to build a profitable business model, but also affect the lives of others in a meaningful way.”

Almost 4 million people will suffer from sports- and recreation-related concussions in the United States this year. In boys’ high school sports, the vast majority of these happen during football games and practices. For girls, it’s soccer. Workers in industries that require protective headgear, such as manufacturing construction, can benefit from Tozuda, too. The name, tozuda means “hard-headed” in Spanish.

“It was important to us that Tozuda be affordable,” says Jessie Garcia, Tozuda CEO and founder. “Young athletes and professionals in dangerous work situations deserve to know if their head injuries require a physician’s attention.”

How Tozuda Works

Most of the currently available impact sensors are electronic, and can be costly, Garcia says. They also require external devices, such as smartphones with special apps, to read and interpret the data. Tozuda’s solution is mechanical, using a compressed spring and ball bearings that keep dye tucked away in reservoirs. When an impact is of sufficient force, the spring and bearings dislodge and dye spills into a chamber, causing the device to turn red. When the color changes, it indicates the possibility that a concussion has occurred and the user should be evaluated for potential traumatic brain injury (TBI). Only a licensed medical professional can diagnose a concussion.

Tozuda’s sensor is a first-step indicator of damaging impact. While brain concussions are considered traumatic brain injuries, initially some people may not experience any symptoms at all. Tozuda provides a warning that the individual should seek medical attention to avoid secondary impacts that could worsen the injury.

Protolabs used injection molding to manufacture three parts for Tozuda. The cover is made from transparent polycarbonate plastic that makes the detection system clearly visible. The base, where the device attaches to a helmet, is rugged ABS plastic. Between the two are critical internal components made from flexible liquid silicone rubber (LSR). These hold the spring and ball bearings in place, ensuring that the dye doesn’t leak unless jarred with a force that’s sufficient to potentially cause a concussion. Tozuda’s catchphrase, “If it’s RED, check your head,” is a nod to the simple system built into the device to detect linear and rotational force.

While initial prototypes were produced in-house, the Tozuda team quickly realized they could not produce their product in large enough quantities to meet expected demand. Protolabs was the choice for that next step. The latest iteration of Tozuda will be available during 2020.

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