Next-generation cast inspired by animal scales could protect against injuries


A hand wearing SCALED's flexible and protective wearable device

An Imperial graduate has designed wearable technology inspired by protective structures found in the animal world to protect athletes from injury.

SCALED is a nature-inspired flexible wearable that could prevent injuries, improve rehabilitation and enhance sports performance.  

A hand wearing SCALED's flexible wearableResearch shows that joint injuries are often recurrent and require lengthy and cost-intensive rehabilitation until motion, strength and function are restored, and may even result in long-term immobility. Current protective and supportive wearables (such as a cast or brace) constantly limit and support joints, which may lead to reduced muscle strength and stiffness in the affected area.  

Inspired by nature 

Imperial College London graduate Natalie Kerres was inspired by animals that are physically protected from threats by skin, shells or scales, designing a product that mimics natural protection and healing, while still allowing flexibility.  

Bespoke interlocking protective scales provide precise motion limitation to protect the wearer. A parametric algorithm precisely controls its 3D form, for a custom scale structure to fit the user’s body shape and requirements. The scales prevent injuries from happening in the first place, without limiting motion and could be used for improving rehabilitation and enhancing sports performance. 

SCALED was founded by Natalie Kerres, a graduate from the Global Innovation Design master’s programme, offered jointly by Imperial and the Royal College of Art.  

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Innovative medical technologies 

The project has recently received funding from the MedTech SuperConnector programme (MTSC), to enable Natalie to further develop Scaled, with the aim of commercialisation. The MTSC facilitates the early stage development of innovative medical technologies, from devices, diagnostics, and digital healthcare solutions. MTSC provides participants with funding, training, membership and access to industry partners to help fast-track the translation of their research discoveries.  

The six-month programme features masterclasses in business, mentorship, networking, project development and funding, ending with an investment pitch. Natalie will be working at the Additive Manufacturing Lab at the Dyson School of Design Engineering, supervised by Dr Connor Myant


Joanna Wilson

Joanna Wilson
Communications Division

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