“Project Invincible” is an initiative started by McLaren Applied Technologies, the high performance technology and design sector of automotive powerhouse McLaren Group. The goal of his project was to develop a revolutionary, personalized body shield using 3D scanning, 3D printing technologies along with materials used in McLaren’s Formula 1 cars. Upon being tasked with creating a protective device for patients recovering from surgery who needed protection for their vital organs, McLaren Applied Technologies decided to re-purpose their cutting-edge automotive materials and create a body shield that essentially serves as a synthetic rib cage. The shield is made up of an extremely high strength composite, capable of enduring high-speed car crashes.
McLaren Applied Technologies was challenged to create this body shield by a client who was set to undergo organ surgery. Their solution was to integrate the Zylon and carbon fibers into the shield to provide not just 360 degree protection, but also flexibility 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.
The decision making process on what materials to use involved some rigorous testing and number-crunching. Only once they say the massive benefits that this shield could potentially provide people, did the McLaren team decide to integrate these high-end materials.
“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.”
McLaren explored an entire realm of options from the time they were tasked with creating this medical device. In order to effectively gather all the possible solutions, they elected to have staff members of various departments, ranging from engineers to designers to composite specialists, provide their solutions.
“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.”
During this idea development phase, the client was brought in to have his body 3D scanned. By taking these 3D scans, the McLaren team was able to tailor their solution’s design to the client’s body shape. This not only ensured peak performance, but also provided maximum comfortability as the shield was made to fit the client’s body perfectly. Once they had their 3D scan data, the team used 3D software to develop the scanned data into a CAD file. From there, they were easily able to produce 3D printed prototypes using 3D printers.
Upon completion of the prototypes, the team’s final step was to create a composite chest shield. Thanks to 3D scanning, this step was easily made possible. The 3D scan data allowed the team to develop a chest shield that was the perfect fit for their client. The shield was engineered to protect from impact and transfer loads to three safer regions of the body at which a unique gel material would interface with the body to protect weak ribs and the vital organs. Since completing this project, McLaren’s Formula 1 team has begun to test it for use in races.