Along with racing and producing high-end sportscars for the well-heeled, there's a third string to McLaren's bow: Applied Technologies. The technology and design firm was recently given the task of creating a new type of body armor to protect an unnamed billionaire from damaging their fragile ribcage following surgery. The result is the Invincible shield.
"We effectively had a blank canvas," says project lead, Dan Toon. "When we received the client's brief, we didn't have a particular solution in mind. And that was actually a benefit because it gave the whole team the freedom to explore all the issues and understand every constraint."
Initial meetings between the client, the identity of whom remains a mystery, and McLaren were used to lay out some goals for the armor: it needed to work discreetly under a shirt and be wearable day-to-day. Rather than turning the wearer into Iron Man, the unit needed to protect their vital internal organs including the heart and lungs in a way their fragile ribcage couldn't. No pressure.
"We spent a month alone generating and developing ideas against the brief and that set of constraints," elaborates Toon.
Along with a full 3D scan of the billionaire's body, the team at McLaren collaborated with a doctor to better understand the protection its armor would need to provide. The finished unit has been molded to perfectly follow the owner's body, with a composite chest-shield and gel sections designed to safely absorb any impacts. Rather than jarring – and potentially injuring – the wearer's weakened ribs and vulnerable innards, the armor is designed to dissipate any bumps or errant elbows.
This organ-protecting, body-hugging capability comes thanks largely to the clever mix of materials McLaren has used. Along with carbon fiber, the Invincible shield contains a mix of Dyneema fibers, which are often used in conventional body armor, and F1-derived Zylon. The blend was honed using computer simulations before being tested in the Formula 1 team's crash-test labs.
"From digital therapeutics, to tailored human performance programmes and bespoke medical devices, our aim is to innovate health care solutions that can be tailored for individual patients," says Dr. Adam Hill, Chief Medical Officer at McLaren Applied Technologies. "The common thread in all of our projects is data. 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."
Given this isn't a product aimed at the general public, there isn't any pricing to talk about. Check out the video below for a bit of insight into the development process behind the Invincible shield.
Source: McLaren Applied Technologies