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New hats Swiss Guards get a 21st-century headgear update

The Swiss Guards, who have protected the Pope for 500 years, are about to receive new headgear: PVC plastic helmets made with a 3D printer.

The guards’ traditional medieval armour is hand-forged in Austria, but the 2-kilogramme metal helmets worn at mass and ceremonial receptions are to be replaced by 3D-printed plastic headgear manufactured in Switzerland, near Stans. Marcus Risi, owner of a 3D printing company, was heavily involved in the development of the project.

To make one of the new helmets, the 16th-century original is scanned, and the digital data is reworked on a computer before being printed. It takes approximately one day to produce a new hat.

The new hi-tech helmets weigh just 570 grams, protect against ultraviolet rays and are fitted with air vents. But they are not cheap: each costs CHF900-1,000 ($911-1,012) to produce, though this is still cheaper than their predecessors, which also took almost 130 hours to make. The 3D printer makes a PVC helmet in one-sixth of that time.

The Vatican has ordered 120 helmets for 2019, financed by donations. On January 22, 2019, 98 helmets will be delivered to the Swiss Guard in Rome.

The Pontifical Swiss Guardexternal link is tasked with protecting the pope and his official palace in the Vatican City. The elite corps has protected the Holy See since 1506, when the first Swiss mercenaries arrived on request of the then Pope Julius II. All members of the 110-strong company are single Swiss men (aged 19-30) and Roman Catholic, and serve for a period of at least two years.

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