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3D printed cast prototype. I wonder if the hideous coloring of a lot of people's broken limbs will be a deterrent to this option. I hope not, it looks so futuristic. (via Jake Evill)

 

 

People who have ever broken their arm or wrist usually are fitted with a fiberglass-based cast. The casts are much lighter and stronger than the plaster kind however they are not without their problems. The first problem to come along with wearing a cast is the incessant itching, which can drive the most sane of people to go mad. It is not uncommon to find various objects such as butter knives, pencils/pens and chopsticks inside the cast when it is cut off. The second problem comes in the form of a noxious odor as most casts cannot be submerged in water and therefore that area cannot be cleaned. When the cast eventually is cut off after about six weeks the skin will have become dry and flakey with a smell that does not seem to ever go away. Victoria University in Wellington graduate Jake Evill has found a novel solution to those problems with a new cast concept for broken arms. His concept makes use of a 3D printed design that is both thinner than traditional casts and allows for easy access to the wearers skin.

 

The concept cast is also washable so the wearer can clean their skin without worrying the cast will be damaged. Jake's design uses a nylon-based resin that can be recycled when it is no longer needed unlike plaster or fiberglass-based casts, which usually end up in a landfill or incinerator. The conceptual process begins with the patient (with a newly broken bone) undergoes an X-ray to determine the location of the break. After the X-ray has been done, a 3D scan is taken of the patients arm to determine the length and thickness of the customized cast. The doctor then uses specialized software that calculates the optimal pattern as well as the thickness of the reinforced areas around the patients fracture. The cast is then manufactured in two parts using a 3D printer, which is then fitted to the patient and snapped closed with built-in durable fasteners.

 

Jake built his initial prototype using a 3D scanner derived from a Microsoft Kinect sensor for the Xbox 360. He manually rotated the modified camera around his arm to get the overall 3D image, which was then refined using Pixologic’s ZBrush digital sculpting software. After he was satisfied with the scan, he then sent the design to Shapeways who printed the design in nylon-based resin. Jakes design is still in its early stage of development but he plans on refining the design using better scanning technology as well as materials for the next prototype. Once his revisions are complete he plans to test the design at a local hospital and if all goes well, will be looking for affordable manufacturers who can bring the design to the market. With affordable 3D printers currently available it’s likely those who suffer a broken bone will be outfitted with his design in the near future.

 

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