VATICAN – Since 1914, the Vatican’s Swiss Guard soldiers have worn a uniform inspired by Renaissance-era artwork — heavy metal helmets included. This year, they’re changing their traditional metal helmets for 3D printed headgear.
The uniform change is a relief to the Swiss Guards, who wore the helmets outside in the sun. The metal helmets became so hot that they caused burns.
The hand-forged metal helmets also weighed almost four and a half pounds a piece. The new 3D printed helmets are lightweight and significantly more comfortable, weighing in at just over a pound.
Production time for the new helmets is significantly better, too. The hand-forged metal helmets took 130 hours to manufacture. The 3D printed helmets are assembled in about fourteen hours using an HP 3D printer.
The first forty new helmets were sponsored by donors, but the remaining helmets will be funded with public donation. The next modern touch for the Swiss Guard uniform is creating pieces with waterproof fabric.
“We have to keep up with the times,” Guards Commander Christoph Graf said in an interview. “But we would not make a halberd out of plastic.”
The design of the helmet stayed almost exactly the same. The only change was adding the coat of arms symbol for Pope Julius II, who first called on the Swiss Guards for protection in 1506.
There are currently 110 Swiss Guards serving at the Vatican. Guards must be male, Catholic, unmarried, and Swiss citizens. They also must be between the ages of nineteen and thirty, stand 1.7 meters tall, and commit to serving as a Swiss Guard for two years.
The Swiss Guards hope to add twenty-five men to their service in the upcoming years. They boast of the oldest (and smallest!) standing army in the world.