In a scenario that sounds like the origin story for a new comic book hero to rival Iron Man, Formula One racing team's McLaren Applied Technologies has created a custom carbon fiber breastplate designed to return an injured billionaire to the jet-set activities he enjoyed before his unnamed debilitating accident, as reported by Men's Health.
Dubbed the "Invincible Shield," the McLaren device is custom-designed to permit Client X to resume driving fast cars, skiing and hiking. His problem is damage to his ribs and sternum that leave vital organs vulnerable to impact injuries. McLaren's mission was to develop a lightweight, unobtrusive breastplate that could be worn beneath a shirt without being obvious.
The Invincible shield features Dyneema fibers (as used in body armor) for damage containment and a resin system with woven fabrics for impact resistance. The shield borrows F1 technology including Zylon fibers, used for side impact protection in F1 race cars. Finally, a third layer of stiff carbon fibers ensure flexural rigidity and load carrying capability.
McLaren Applied Technologies collaborated with companies across the Group, including McLaren Racing in 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," said McLaren’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Adam Hill.
The project team produced a final design that comprised of a composite chest-shield, molded specifically to Client X'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 dampens the load and protect weak ribs and the vital organs.
While medicine may seem an odd diversion for a racing team, actually it is the fastest-growing area of McLaren's business, the company said.
Other teams are also pursuing such work, with examples such as the Williams F1 team's Baby Pod 20, an infant emergency transport incubator that protects children from up to a 20 g-force impact. It is used in ambulances and helicopters when newborns need to be moved between hospitals.
“The parallels between a Formula One car and transport device for babies may not be immediately apparent," noted Craig Wilson, Managing Director of Williams Advanced Engineering, "but both demand a lightweight and strong structure that keeps the occupant safe in the event of an accident, and can monitor vital signs whilst remaining easily transportable and accessible."
Hopefully the rest of us will be spared the need, but it is good to know that the technical wizards from Formula One are ready to deploy their capabilities for those in need of medical assistance, even if we aren't comic book heroes in need of a good origin story.
Read the complete story over at Men’s Health.