The Pontifical Swiss Guard, the colorfully dressed bodyguards who protect the pope, will be trading in their heavy metal helmets for 3D-printed plastic headgear.
The new helmets will look exactly like the old ones, which are based on a 16th-century design that was scanned and computerized before being printed. Known as a morion, the high-crested open helmet originated from the Kingdom of Castile in Spain.
The big difference is the helmets will be much lighter and cooler under the hot Roman sun, according to a report in swissinfo.ch. The helmets are worn during papal Masses and ceremonial occasions when the guards wear their “Gala Uniform.” During training and night duties, the protective force wears a simpler, blue “Exerzieruniform” with a beret.
The innovation in armor will mean the pope’s guards have a lot less weighing on them. The old metal helmets tip the scales at 4.4 lbs., while the new ones weigh just 1 ¼ lb. What’s more, they are ventilated and made of a PVC material that protects against ultraviolet rays. The ostrich feather plume, which adds little to the weight of the helmet, will still be produced by the flightless bird.
It takes just a day to make each new helmet with a 3-D printer, compared to the 130 hours it took to make the old ones. At $1,000 a piece, they are also cheaper than their predecessors. The 120 helmets purchased by the Vatican will be paid for by donations.