Natalie Kerres is studying Global Innovation Design at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College in London. This interdisciplinary program underlies the department of Design Engineering at the Dyson School and is a double degree (MA and Msc). The program is an academic collaboration between Pratt Institute (New York) and Keio University (Tokyo). Global Innovation Design students share a belief that we can have a positive impact on the world through design.
Natalie has developed Scaled as part of the Global Innovation Design master’s programme. The project is a flexible protective cast for athletes made of interlocking scales like those of a pangolin. The wearable could be customized for individual sportspeople looking to protect and support a vulnerable body part such as the spine or wrist.
Kerres studied the scales of lizards, fish and pangolins – a mammal covered in scales made of keratin that can curl up into a ball when threatened. Natalie worked on a system that could apply this natural protective system to athletes, helping to rehabilitate joint injuries. Scaled could also prevent injuries in the first place, by acting as a shock absorber and preventing hyper-extension. Traditional casts or braces are designed to hold joints in place also restrict the wearer’s movement and can cause discomfort. Scaled is intended as a solution to this problem, as the wearable can bend with the athlete’s body. The design involves using a parametric algorithm to determine the exact shape of the interlocking scales so that the cast exactly fits the body of the person wearing it.
Scaled has been granted funding by a programme called MedTech SuperConnector (MTSC), which will help develop the health product and scale it for commercial use. As the patent is still being filed, Natalie has to keep details of the materials and technology under wraps.
The designer and MTSC hope to bring Scaled to market by 2021.