Composites Manufacturing Magazine

McLaren “Project Invincible” Shield Helps Protect Patients after Surgery

McLaren has revealed the latest addition to its portfolio of personalized healthcare solutions: a fully wearable composite shield that acts like a ribcage by providing further protection from unexpected low energy impact. According to the company, the shield was made in response to a challenge from a client to design a device to help protect vital organs after surgery.

The multi-material shield features high-failure strain Dyneema fibers (as used in body armor) for damage containment and a highly-toughened resin system with woven fabrics for impact resistance. The shield borrows McLaren’s signature F1 technology including Zylon fibers, used by all F1 teams on their cars for protection against side penetration. Carbon fibers also ensure flexural rigidity and load carrying capability.

McLaren Applied Technologies collaborated with companies across the McLaren Group, including McLaren Racing in the manufacturing process of the shield.

“Applied Technologies has a pedigree of applying insight and technology developed from decades of elite motorsport competition, and Project Invincible is no different,” said McLaren Chief Medical Officer Dr. Adam Hill. “The Invincible shield is made from materials that will be in next year’s Formula 1 car.”

With expertise in high-performance design and engineering, the McLaren Design Group within Applied Technologies oversaw the development of Project Invincible from the concept stage to the final product. The project team comprised, among others, mechanical engineers, industrial designers, and composites specialists. Like every Applied Technologies project, it’s the collaborative and open culture within the company which led to new and unique solutions.

While the team was busy developing its initial ideas, it simultaneously began a full 3-D scan of the client to fully understand how to create and build a fully custom structure for them. In addition, it also received medical images from the client’s doctor, which helped them build up a detailed picture of the protection required.

The early concept designs had determined that the final product would need to be wearable, interfacing seamlessly with the human body. Accordingly, the team then consulted with material and textile experts. Using FDM and PolyJet, the team transformed its CAD designs into prototype models using Stratasys 3-D printers.

The project team began to evolve a final design that comprised of a composite chest-shield, perfectly molded to the client’s body, engineered to protect from initial impact and efficiently transfer loads to three safer regions of the body. At these locations, a unique gel material interfaced with the body which was designed to attenuate the load and protect weak ribs and the vital organs.

Having undertaken computer-simulated load-tests, and armed with a thorough understanding of all the underlying structures, they tested the prototypes in the same labs used by McLaren’s Formula 1 team for its monocoque crash-tests.

To learn more about the project, check out the video below: