What if the objects we use could be shaped to precisely fit our body shapes... whenever we choose? That was the challenge for LOMA Innovation, which develops materials that can be shaped simply by applying an electrical conduction. Plug it into an outlet or insert it a few seconds in a low-power microwave oven is all it takes to soften this material so that it can be formed into the desired shape. It then stiffens and looks similar to impact-resistant plastic.
In practice, the unique properties of these materials respond brilliantly to the challenges of sports equipment. Whether for shin guards, dance shoes, ski boots or many other applications, the ability to be moulded perfectly to the wearer’s body shape means that these materials can reduce the risk of pain by 60%. So, there’s no longer any need to produce expensive moulds to adapt a product to different body shapes! Health-related accessories and devices are also enhanced by this technology, from headphones to watch straps, medical orthotics or cosmetic masks. This reversible process also significantly increases product durability.
The LOMA Innovation team is led by its dynamic CEO Alexis Robert, the man responsible for the ‘shop floor’ aspects of the project. Alexis is supported by CSO Pierre-Louis Boyer and CMO Alexis de Leffe.
I was tired of seeing my loved ones suffering from discomfort and even deep wounds as a result of sport and medical treatment. I wondered just how much of their pain was caused by the accessories they used, especially for sports protection: ergonomics was never a consideration at the range entry level. And the price of so-called ‘personalised’ product was simply unaffordable. So I decided to change all that by developing a new material that would make all these issues redundant! The aim was to develop a compound whose structure could adapt precisely to the needs of its user, and do so reversibly and reliably at a price everyone involved in sport could afford!
What are the most recent developments for your start-up?
After years of optimising the material and testing it to ensure its compliance with current standards, we’re now at the point of finalising manufacture of several hundred preproduction Onos football shin guards! These will then be tested by our corporate customers - major sports goods retailers and professional football clubs - who have already expressed their interest in testing our products before placing grouped orders in the future. We’ll also soon be offering our shin guards for direct sale to the public via our future e-commerce website.
What’s been the most unexpected thing that’s happened as a result of the start-up?
When you have just one material project on the stocks, it can be challenging to secure sufficient levels of funding or attract larger thermoplastics companies. So, we had to buy our own production machinery - the smallest on the market - and train ourselves in how to use it. So that meant I was the artisan mixer, at the same time as applying innovative techniques to our processes to ensure that the composition of our material is fully compatible with all the technical constraints. In dealing with adhesives, powders, thermoplastics, foams, silicones and many other materials, I've discovered that entrepreneurship sometimes means literally rolling up your sleeves.
So how does your project revolutionise your category?
Our Onos shin guard features a reversible and customisable protection technology. Which means that users can reshape the product by hand whenever they wish, simply by heating it in a microwave oven for a few seconds. At first glance, it looks like a standard sports accessory, but in reality, it can be re-formed to meet the ergonomic needs of the user and wearer. Now everyone who takes a demanding approach to their sport can afford to indulge in constant personalisation at a low cost! Now imagine that all the sports and medical protections of the future will have that ability as well. That means no one will have to continue suffering in silence, because everyone will be able to protect themselves effectively and individually!
All finalists of the EDF Pulse special Award for Sport & Innovation