Just about everyone has that really gruesome childhood story of the first time you broke a bone and went through the lengthy process of getting a cast. If you happen to grow up to be in the best professional field ever (i.e. design), you likely also have stories of fantastical apparatuses with which to get at that itch underneath the layers of plaster or ingenious ways to keep the cast dry at a pool party.
It's really no secret that designing for medical products is one of the fastest moving and innovative subsets of the product design game. Designing objects for better administering or healthcare, implementing new technology and identifying opportunities for innovation is serious business. So how did it take this long to merge with out favorite manufacturing technique of the latter, 3D printing? Whatever the reason, the recent work of Victoria University of Wellington graduate Jake Evill is certainly notable for merging digital fabrication and one of the most uncomfortable medical devices.
Achieving what will be the epitome of a Nervous System-meets-Spiderman aesthetic, the Cortex 3D-printed concept cast boasts some really nice features that put its traditional (and itchy) plaster counterpart to shame. The lightweight polyamide cast both allowing you to shower and recycle the parts when healing is complete. Paired with 3D scanning technology, the design and support structure could easily be tweaked to provide extra support to fractured areas of the arm.
Evill reportedly hopes to develop this concept design further working with orthopedic physicians. We can certainly envision serious interest in the healthcare field for personalized cast construction. It appears the biggest hurdle will be in the turnaround for 3D printing the actual casts - with current production time clocking in at 24-72 hours, an awfully long time to be waiting in the emergency room. Luckily for Evill, we can't imagine that will be a problem for much longer with the 3D printing boom. What will be especially interesting will be the potential to outfit healthcare facilities with 3D printers directly so as to actually manufacture casts on site (should the speed of printing make products feasible for production).