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Oregon Company Makes Ducks’ Rose Bowl Helmets

NEWBERG, Ore. — Oregon’s mirrored helmets were the talk of the Rose Bowl. They are the first of their kind in college football and they were made right here in Oregon.

“We knew this was way outside the box. It was fun to be involved in something this out there, but we had no idea people were going to respond like this,” said Hydro Graphics, Inc. owner Chris Thom.
Thom is the man behind those “liquid metal” helmets. His company started working with Nike more than three years ago.

“Late 2008, I think, is when some of the first carbon fiber helmet samples came about. Went through about seven, eight different variations before something was chosen,” Thom said.

The final product didn’t make it onto the field until 2010, but since then, Thom and his crew have been busy.

“They’ve challenged me to push the envelope, get outside the box,” Thom said.

The process starts with polyvinyl alcohol film with a pattern, like Oregon’s carbon fiber print.

“It works like a breath strip; it dissolves in water and just leaves the ink on the surface,” Thom said.

Then they dip an object in the water.

“You draw that through the pattern that’s left in the water and the pressure of the water conforms the pattern to the three-dimensional shape,” Thom said.

It’s the same process Hydro Graphics used for the Rose Bowl helmets.

“The ‘Liquid Metal’ helmet we did for Oregon, to be honest with you, some of the stuff we’re working on now that’s coming. My favorite isn’t out yet,” Thom said.

Hydro Graphics, Inc. doesn’t just work with the Ducks anymore; the company created helmets for Notre Dame, Michigan State, Ohio State and many more.

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