Any of you who have had to deal with bone fractures know how frustrating and uncomfortable the regular plaster casts can be. Thanks to 3D printing technology, which has recently begun to gain more ground in the medical field, you may not have to deal with those cumbersome casts any longer.

A New Zealand media design graduate who recently healed from a broken arm used his first hand experience to offer an alternative solution to the fiberglass and plaster cast: he designed a 3D printed exoskeletal cast.

 3D Printed Exoskeletal Cast to Mend Fractures

Dubbed the Cortex, this 3D printed cast is a fully ventilated, lightweight support structure that will act like any traditional cast, minus that itchy, stuffy feeling.

The Cortex was designed by Wellington Victoria University media design graduate Jake Evill, who used 3D printing and scanning paired with X-ray technology to build the exoskeleton system.  The system is injury-localized and was designed to mimic bone structure: the honeycomb, lattice-shaped structures forming the bone’s inner tissue.

The idea behind the Cortex is that patients with a broken bone would have the fracture X-rayed and then 3D scanned. By analyzing the images, a computer would determine the optimal structure and pattern for the cast, so as to focus the denser material around the fractured area.

The end result is a very light, recyclable and shower-friendly 3D printed cast that is comfortable to wear. The cast would weigh under 500 grams and would be about three millimeters thick.

Evill’s Cortex also lets in plenty of air and due to its customized fitting and tight structure, it can fit under clothing more easily compared to traditional casts. Its honeycomb-like structure would also allow the wearers to feel the surroundings and scratch the inevitable itches more freely.

The 3D printed exoskeletal cast is still in prototype stage and Evill is currently working to refine the scanning process. He initially used a hacked Xbox Kinect sensor to create, but the downside was that the scanner had to be moved around the broken limb and this affected the accuracy of the readings.

Granted that a 3D printed cast would take a few hours to print, unlike traditional plaster casts which can be ready in half an hour or less, but we think its customization, convenience and flexibility would worth the wait.

[Image via Gizmodo]