Meet Per Reinhall, Co-Founder of VICIS
PHD, COMPANY CO-FOUNDER, AND CHIEF TECHNICAL OFFICER OF VICIS, PER TALKS ABOUT HIS INSPIRATION FOR FOUNDING THE COMPANY AND WHAT HIS ASPIRATIONS ARE FOR THE FUTURE.
VICIS: What is your background?
PR: “I grew up in Sweden and moved to the US over 30 years ago to attend University of Washington, where I received my undergraduate mechanical engineering degree. After that, I travelled to Pasadena to attend the California Institute of Technology where I got my Masters and PhD in applied mechanics. Then, I came back up here to Washington to teach in the Mechanical Engineering department at UW.”
VICIS: “May you expand more on your entrepreneurial experience?”
PR: “Throughout my career, I’ve done a lot of work in vibrations, impacts, and non-linear dynamics, all of which are important to a diverse set of applications ranging from heavy industry to medical devices. Two years ago, I helped start the Boeing Advanced Research Center (BARC) at the University of Washington. Before VICIS, I started two companies – RotaDyne Inc, and Marine Construction Technologies, PBC.
VICIS: “Why the inception of VICIS? What motivated you to found the company?
PR: “I’ve been interested in helmets for quite some time. Watching football and seeing those collisions and their effects, it became harder for me to truly enjoy. Hearing the cracking sound on television and observing the stuff in person, that was enough motivation right there. That’s when I started working with Sam Browd – the Chief Medical Officer and co-founder of VICIS. We both shared this common interest around helmets; we couldn’t stop talking about them, so we started researching. Sam looked into what these collisions do to athletes from a medical perspective, where I looked at it from more of an engineering angle.
Coincidentally enough, both Sam and I knew Dave Marver, our third co-founder. Dave is well known as someone who can take a good concept and create a company with the reach to make a meaningful impact on the problem. We all had the same goal of protecting kids because in our minds, it’s a social health problem. Eventually one thing lead to another and here we are today.
VICIS: How did the design of the CORE layer develop?
PR: “Football helmets today are built and based on their hard, outer shell, originally designed to prevent skull fracture. However, when Sam, Dave, and I got together, that was when this more flexible shell structure started to evolve.
All helmets have what is called offset – the distance between the athlete’s head and the outside of the helmet. This is about an inch and a half of space, which is all you have to prevent the head from any sort of impact. It’s the only real estate you have to work with, so what we focused on was slowing down the head while minimizing the forces, like a car bumper for instance. The thickness of that bumper is the thickness of material you have between the car and the source of impact. Therefore, we aimed to create a structure that has non-linear behavior in order to minimize the forces that are caused by these collisions.
VICIS: So what’s next?
PR: “This is just version one of the helmet— we will continue our research beyond this to make it even better. There’s high energy at VICIS to optimize every component and continue optimizing manufacturing and materials, and engineer an improved version of the helmet. The helmet might seem like a simple system, but in fact it’s not – the helmet is a complex, layered design and we will continue to examine each individual component and the overall system in order to optimize safety and performance.
VICIS: “Finally, how would you measure company success?”
PR: “I’ll feel we have accomplished our mission if football became like any other active sport. In other words, if the head injury rate was equal to other sports kids play. Sports will always have the risk of injury, but we will be successful and satisfied if football becomes as safe as other sports our kids love to play.”