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Trying to make a neck brace with head support

Goal

The goal is to be able to travel further as a passenger in a car. For example to go to a osteopath or the hospital.
Therefor I would like to make a neckbrace that supports my head, but that is still flexible. Because I would be in a moving car, a hard fixed support will not work. If possible, then I would like to transfer half of the weight of my head onto my shoulders.

On this page I show the things that I have tried to make a better neckbrace.

Normal neck brace

normal neck brace
A neckbrace that is high enough for me does not exist. That is why I use for many years (as passenger in a car) a firm and high neckbrace with a inflatable neckbrace under it. The neckbrace of firm foam is no longer being made.
It does not support very well and it does not fit very well. Since 2008 this became a serious problem.

Polyether foam

polyether foam
Normal neckbraces are made of polyether foam, therefor I thought that it would not be too hard to make a neckbrace of polyether foam myself.
I tried everything with firm polyether foam. A shape that bends around my neck, or horizontal layers. I was not able to make something that fits and supports my head.
In the photo is the most firm polyether foam that I could buy. I bought it in 2013.

A support of EVA foam

EVA foam
With a old backpack on my belly and a support made of green EVA foam, I thought that I could support a neck brace. I have tried it. It did not work very well, because it is not flexible enough, that caused wrong forces on my neck. I had a lot of troubles from it afterwards.

PU foam

PU foam
This foam has two components. After they are mixed together, it can be poured into some shape. It creates a nice, even, somewhat flexible foam.
It could be good foam for a neckbrace, but I could not make a neckbrace with it. The foam can be poured into a shape, but it can not be attached to something. It is toxic and sticks very strong to the skin. It is not even possible to pull it from the skin. It is therefor too dangerous to try to make something around my neck.

Alginate

Alginate
Alginate can be used to make a mold with a limited lifespan. The alginate powder is mixed with water. After the mold has been made, that mold can be used to pour something else in that mold.
It is used for example to make a torso of someone of gypsum.
It seems a good idea, because then I could try to make a neckbrace with a torso of me, instead of directly on my own body.
I made a box around my neck, en poured the alginate in it. I took special care that the box was closed, but sadly there was a hole in it. Almost all the alginate ran out of the box, on the floor tiles outside. It took a few years before it disappeared.

I could hire a team to come to my place and make a mold of my neck from alginate. I do not like to do that, because it is expensive, and I would have to sit still for a long time. I am also not sure if I could make a usable neckbrace once I have a torso of myself.

PCL (polycaprolactone)

pcl plastic
PCL (polycaprolactone) is a thermoplastic which becomes soft above 70°C. By boiling water en placing the PCL in the water, it becomes soft. When it cools down, it is possible to knead it before it becomes hard. It can be compared with nylon, but it is softer and less strong.
I tried to make a shape for a neckbrace with PCL. My aim was for example to make a hard outer shell with memory foam on the inside. However, I was not able to make such a large surface with PCL.

Varaform

Varaform
Varaform is a gauze made of threads and PCL (polycaprolactone). By boiling water and putting the Varaform in the water, it becomes soft. It can be used instead of gypsum.
I tried to make a neckbrace with Varaform, or else only the shape of my neck, so I could make a neckbrace with that shape.
When it is soft, it is hard to handle. Different pieces do stick to each other, but it does not result into a smooth and tight shape. I was not able to put it around my neck and create a good shape.

Skin-friendly silicone with filler

skin friendly silicone
Until then I tried to make a lightweight neckbrace. Because that was not successful so far, I tried heavier materials.
There is skin-friendly two-component silicone. A filler can be added to it. For example fumed silica is a skin-friendly filler.
It turned out to be hard to create a suitable curing time. It is too liquid to attach it around my neck.

Oogoo

Oogoo Oogoo
The two-component silicone was too liquid, but a normal tube silicone sealant is not that liquid. But a normal tube silicone sealant does not cure inside. It appeared that there was a simple solution for this. By mixing silicone sealant with corn starch it does cure. It is called "Oogoo". The moisture level in the corn starch (from the air) is sufficient to cure the silicone sealant through and through.
The disadvantage is that normal silicone sealant contains an antifungal agent. There are often a few different antifungal agents in it, in quite large quantities.
Directly after mixing them, it becomes sturdy and it is hard to turn that into a certain shape.
In 2018 I tried to make something with it.
The ratio I used is: one silicone cartridge of 300 ml, 90 grams of cornstarch (one third of a pack) and about 40 ml of white spirit.
First I mix the cornstarch with the white spirit until I have a thick paste. Then I add the silicone and I mix it with a paint mixing stick.
With this composition is adheres very well to itself, and I can remove pieces with a saw.
The smell of the white spirit remained strong, so then I started to use odorless white spirit.

It takes a few weeks before the white spirit has evaporated. When a lot white spirit was used, the material shrinks some. The odorless white spirit is still unhealthy. There are solvents that are less unhealthy.

Oogoo neckbrace
It was hard to make a good shape and it was very heavy. So far, I'm not yet able to make a fitting shape.

I tried many gloves:
gloves for silicone sealent and oogoo
The best gloves to work with silicones are powder free, single use, disposable nitril gloves.
The nitril gloves are the blue and black gloves on the right in the photo.

With a brush applyable skin friendly silicone rubber

There is liquid skin friendly silicone rubber, that can be applied with a brush.

smooth-on body double
Brand: Smooth-On
Type: Body Double Standard Set.

According to the description, latex gloves should not be used.
When cured, it has a smooth and shiny surface. The oogoo the other silicone stick to it reasonably well, but it is possible to tear them off with some force.

Skin friendly silicone rubber

Skin friendly silicone rubber can be used to make a shape by applying it directly onto my neck. Those silicone rubbers are often too liquid or too thick, making it hard to mix. In 2018 there was skin friendly silicone rubber, with the right thickness.
skin friendly silicone rubber
Bought at: polyestershoppen.nl
Price: 100 euros for 2 kg in 2018.
It is easy to mix, because one component is colored. The mix ratio is 1:1, making it easy to make the right mixture ratio by weight. It has the right thickness and the right curing time. It does not stick too much or too little to the skin.
It is expensive, but everything about this product is okay.
When using latex gloves, it stays sticky in some parts. With nitril gloves there is no problem.

With this silicone rubber, it was possible to make a neck collar.
silicone neck collar

It is hard to make a smooth surface or a thin layer with this skin friendly silicone rubber. When I tried to make it more liquid but it did not cure well. The composition of this silicone rubber is probably a good match, and not possible to change.

This silicone rubber sticks well to oogoo. Therefor I made it more firm with oogoo.
I closed the opening in the back (with the same silicone rubber) and then I made the opening in the front.

huidvriendelijke siliconen versterkt met oogoo
It was easy to make a buckle on the front side. I make a thin slab of oogoo and cut a strip out of it. The clip (slip-lock) is attached to the strip and I stick that to the rest with more oogoo.
oogoo with buckle
The resulting neck brace did not work at all. When I made myself taller then it gave no support, en when I make myself smaller then it pushes too hard.

So I removed the upper part and made it wider. On top came a piece of polyether foam. I added a breast plate to attach the neck brack to, so it would not slide forward and downward.
neck brace with oogoo and polyther foam
This neck brace did support my head, but there were wrong forces on my neck vertebrae.

Because I still had no neck brace, I decided to take an existing neck brace and fill the missing lower part with skin friendly silicone rubber.
neck brack with silicone rubber neck brace with silicone rubber
To put it on, I first put on the shape of silicone rubber. I wear it on my skin, that prevents it somewhat from sliding forward and downward. I have to keep my head straight up, to keep it in place. On top of that comes the existing collar. The shape of silicone rubber has a ledge that supports the existing collar. Then I add an extra band around the collar for more firmness.

The neck collar is the highest model that I can buy. The silicone rubber shape is what I need extra.

This turned out to be a success. Suddenly I had a neck brace that gave support, in december 2018.
This neck collar was intended to wear as a passenger in a car to be able to travel further. Because this collar fits under my clothes, I tried if I could walk wit it. That went well. With this neck collar I was able to walk every day for half an hour, without negative consequences afterwards. The last time that I could do that was in 1997, 21 years ago, and that was only for a week. My neck problems became a daily trouble in 1992. Before that I could walk without problems.

That I could walk daily for more than a week in 2018 was longer ago than half of my life.

I wonder if I can make the silicone shape lighter by letting it foam during curing or by adding lightweight granules.

Last change to this page: January 2018