Who’s that (Cool) Cat in the Hat?

That would be – one of the Pope’s Swiss Guards.  Cool, because they’ve traded in their old metal helmets – for new 3D-printed, thermoplastic toppers.

(Thermoplastic, by the way, is a polymer made from petrochemicals – and this particular helmet is made from UV-resistant polyvinyl chloride (or PVC), made from the petrochemical building block, ethylene.  PVC is one of the most versatile thermoplastics and goes into everything from vinyl siding on your house to the piping for your drinking water.)

They’re literally cool too.  In fact, that was one of the reasons the Guard went to thermoplastic.  When you’re out there under the Roman sun, metal helmets can be pretty brain-baking.  Plastic doesn’t heat up the way metal does, and the new helmets have hidden air vents inside.  Plus, the metal helmets were almost four times heavier than the new headgear – so that’s cool too.

And, if being a member of the Papal Swiss Guard goes to your head, it’s a lot easier to print up a new helmet for your burgeoning bean, than to go out and have a new metal helmet custom-made (and a lot more comfortable than mashing your head into a too-small tin hat).

The new helmet isn’t a complete break with the past though:  the printed version is based on a scan of a metal helmet from the 1500s, and they give it a paint job in the classic color of the original.

Now if you’re liking the look of the new chapeau, and thinking you’d look pretty good in one yourself – it IS possible to join the Swiss Guards, but it isn’t easy.  Among other things, you have to be single, Swiss, Catholic, a guy, taller than 5’8, older than 19 but not over 30, and have gone to military school in Switzerland.  And you have to look good in a helmet.

Click here to read more about what’s new, what’s next and what it means for you.

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