July 11, 2012

The miracle of evoshield...and the hilarity of their next steps

Calen's kid is a bit of a baseball player, and he got a new toy that's pretty fascinating.

He got a new wrist protector from a company named evoSHIELD. A new wrist protector in and of itself, of course, wouldn't really be much news if it weren't for the outstanding science that the wrist protector seems to exhibit.

See, the evoSHIELD is a two-part system. It's got a neoprene compression sleeve that holds the protector in place...the same exact place every time. That's kind of important because of thhow the second part works.

The second part starts out as a gel material that's sealed in an air-tight foil pouch. Once the pouch is broken, the gel material is placed in the neoprene sleeve and worn as it would be in a baseball game. The very flexible material - sort of like a gel shoe insert - starts to harden then, taking the next twenty or so minutes to turn to a remarkably rigid plastic molded exactly to the shape of the wearer's wrist.

When that rigid plastic then takes an impact - from a pitched ball, for example - it distributes that impact over the entirety of the rigid plastic all of which is in even contact with the wearer's body, spreading that impact until it has a lot less power to do any damage. If the hard plastic wasn't molded so perfectly, the impact wouldn't be spread as evenly and would instead concentrate that force on one place on the wrist, leaving the wearer open to injury.

The physics here is pretty cool, sure, but that's nothing more than snowshoes - spread the force out, do less damage.

The chemistry, however, is phenomenally cool. The material turns from soft and pliable to rigid and permanently formed in about twenty minutes upon exposure to air. And once it's formed, it's formed perfectly. It's not going anywhere.

That does mean that the evoSHIELD can't be loaned to anyone else, but it also means that it's a spectacular protective device. The company makes the same product in pads for football, softball, baseball, lacrosse, even to protector your shoulder when shooting a rifle. The can protect your ribs and thighs, chest and back, shoulders and pretty much whatever you need - even if it's a special medical need like an enlarged spleen, missing rib, or implanted device in your chest.

It's pretty spectacular materials science right there, folks. It's a cheap material ($14 for a replacement wrist protector without the neoprene sleeve) that can be molded by anyone with almost no training, and it's rock solid once it's set. I teach chemistry and run materials science workshops, so I wanted to find out how the material works.

Step one after I check the limited 'how it works' info on their website was to give the company an email. Ask 'em how it works. Here's what I sent...
I am a high school science teacher and am leading some of ASM's materials science teacher camps this summer...


One of the other camp leaders today showed me her son's evoshield baseball wrist guard before/after/during fitting today, and I was blown away. The material that your products use is absolutely fascinating, and I was hoping that you might have some literature that I could share with the teachers in the camps over the next few weeks. Do you have any such literature explaining any part of the science behind the hardening process that I could have and share?
Simple enough...just asking for some background info on the material. It couldn't be that simple, however... Here's what I got back.
Hi Lonnie,

Thank you for your email and for reaching out to us. The only person who can describe specifically how the technology works is the chemist who patented the technology and he is no longer with the company. We are not sure specifically what the patent entails, but the main premise is that our shields harden when exposed to the moisture in the air. I apologize for the vague response, but the details of the technology are not well known at all.

EvoShield Customer Service
300 Commerce Blvd.
Bogart, GA 30622
PH: 770-725-2724 | FAX: 678-753-0100
Wait. Your company is making this materials - an admittedly phenomenal material - and you don't have anybody on staff who knows how the stuff works? Seriously? That's hilarious and outstanding and brilliant. But I'm determined, so I asked further. (I do now at least know that the material cures on exposure to moisture not air.)
Thanks for sending me something to start with as an answer. Do you happen to know the patent number under which the material is registered? I'm curious enough to do a little more research. Or would you be willing to share the chemist's name so I could see if I could contact him? I promise that I'm not looking to compete but rather to get students and teachers excited about some of the exciting/revolutionary materials being made today.
I figure I can do some research on my own. I'll go looking. Let's see what they offer up.
Hi Lonnie,
Thanks for the interest and the enthusiasm. I really wish I could help more, but unfortunately all of that information is kept very secretive, even from most employees. It's treated just like Coke's secret formula. I know you're not looking to compete but there have been several copycat attempts already and they are very protective and cautious about giving out any information at all. Very sorry and have a great week Lonnie.
Looks like my searching via evoSHIELD is a dead end. Now I need to find out how to search for a patent on a material.

In the mean time I'll just be impressed with the awesomeness of materials science and evoSHIELD. Thanks, Calen.


Smamy said...

Try following up on Stanley C. Kanavage: Application number: 12/383,266; Publication number: US 2010/0235958 A1; Filing date: Mar 23, 2009. He also holds patents for the body armour. Likely his work. He was a principal in Evoshield and has several patents in this area. I think you should be able to follow him or his colleagues to the patent number. Not sure what part of the chemistry will be revealed, but you can often find out a lot. I have done a good bit of patent searching recently and Google Patent is quite good.

Anonymous said...

Not sure if you're still interested in finding out more about the actual shield material, but I've been doing some digging of my own and found this reference in Kanavage's patent from the previous comment,

"U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,899,738, 5,456,658, 5,480,376 and 6,128,777 to Parker are directed to armor material, and the method of forming the same, used with the protective garment of the present invention."

Hope that Helps

nhengineer said...

Go to Google Patents and look up Patent 4,411,262. I think this is the original material patent from Bayer in Germany that the EvoShield material is based on. Also look at Patent 4,502,479 by 3M. These are long expired patents and I think Evoshield is probably just trying to gloss over the idea they are marketing new uses of an old material and/or protecting some manufacturing techniques that they don't want to disclose via the patent process.

Lancelot Chan said...

I think the 3M patent one is the right one. :) I've seen the material of the hardened shield and it totally resemble a fabric mesh with cured resin.