Sep 21, 2017 | By Benedict

McLaren Applied Technologies, a high-performance technology and design company and part of the famous McLaren Group, has used 3D scanning on “Project Invincible,” a personalized healthcare solution that uses the same materials going into next season’s McLaren Formula 1 car.

It’s a hard concept to get your head around. I mean, you wouldn’t install windscreen wipers on your forehead on a rainy day. Nor would you fill yourself up with petrol when you’re feeling exhausted. But McLaren Applied Technologies thinks that patients recovering from surgery could use Formula 1 car materials to protect their vital organs from damage.

That’s the premise of Project Invincible, a new healthcare solution from McLaren Applied Technologies that takes high-end automotive materials and repurposes them for a super high-strength composite shield that acts as a synthetic rib cage. After all, if it can survive high-impact car crashes, it can probably survive the bumps and bruises of your day-to-day life.

The Invincible shield was made in response to a challenge from a McLaren client, who asked the company to design a device to help protect vital organs after surgery. McLaren’s response was to develop a multi-material shield with high-failure strain Dyneema fibers—the kind used in body armor—for damage containment, as well as a toughened resin system with woven fabrics for impact resistance.

Technologies borrowed from the McLaren F1 car include Zylon fibers, which are used by all F1 teams on their cars for protection against side penetration, while the shield also uses stiff carbon fibers that ensure flexural rigidity and load-carrying capability.

“From digital therapeutics, to tailored human performance programs and bespoke medical devices, our aim is to innovate health care solutions that can be tailored for individual patients,” said Dr Adam Hill, McLaren’s Chief Medical Officer.

But this isn’t just a case of taking one established technology and shifting it into a different sector for fun. In fact, the McLaren team only decided to use the chosen materials after doing some intense number-crunching and seeing the potential benefit for patients.

“The common thread in all of our projects is data,” Hill explained. “We use data to build a digital picture of how a patient is performing or recovering, and then create solutions, or in the case of the Project Invincible, devices, to aid our users.”

Weirdly enough though, McLaren Racing—the British F1 team that helped stars like Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost to racing glory—was highly involved with the medical project, lending its expertise during the manufacturing process of the Invincible shield.

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

From the moment they received the brief from their client, McLaren was free to explore a whole number of options, effectively starting with a blank canvas. This enabled staff from several departments to come up with possible solutions to the problem.

“Our journey started with a one-to-one meeting with the client,” said project lead Dan Toon. “Our client wanted their day-to-day experience improved, requiring it to be discreet beneath a shirt, for instance. So we spent several hours creating a detailed requirement specification to underpin the development.”

A whole month was spent fleshing out certain solutions that would fit the client’s needs, with input gathered from mechanical engineers, industrial designers, and composites specialists.

While this development of ideas was going on, the client was brought in to have their body 3D scanned. This would allow the McLaren team to design their solution around the right body shape, ensuring each part was tailor-made for comfort and function.

The company says it had around 20 good ideas at this stage, but decided to consult with material and textile experts to determine the most feasible solutions. Using Stratasys 3D printers, the team then turned a few CAD designs into 3D printed prototypes, and this would signal the final stage of development.

With the 3D printed prototypes ready, the McLaren team began to close in on a final design: a composite chest shield, perfectly molded to the client’s body thanks to 3D scanning, and engineered to protect from impact and transfer loads to three safer regions of the body. At these safe locations, a unique gel material would interface with the body to protect weak ribs and the vital organs.

Clearly, McLaren was serious about making this medical solution an effective piece of kit, because testing was carried out in the same labs used by McLaren’s Formula 1 team for its monocoque crash-tests. This testing was successful, and the incredible body shield is now ready for use. I'd certainly feel safe wearing it.

Earlier this year, McLaren added 3D printed parts to its 2017 F1 car.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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