Ankle Brace

Spring 2013 | Natural Fiber Composite Forming

This brace resulted from a material exploration into the properties of natural fiber composites (NFC), sponsored by BASF Chemical. A mat of natural fibers (Kinaf) shot through with ABS threads is heated and then formed, producing a composite part. The thermoplastic melts and becomes a matrix strengthened by the fibers.

NFCs are lightweight and simple to form. While lighter than most commercial plastics, NFCs are less resistant to compression and flexing. They are typically used for complex organic, but non-structural forms, such as car door interiors.

Because ankle braces are supports, but not entirely structural in and of themselves, they benefit from NFC's particular strength properties. The brace restricts lateral ankle rotation, and the slight flexibility of the NFC enhances comfort during long-term use. The brace is compatible with existing AirCast brace padding systems, and the foam/air pads can be easily changed if necessary. I have tested this brace on my own sprained ankle: it is as effective as standard hard-plastic braces, and significantly more comfortable to wear.