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One of the nastier aspects of having a broken limb is having to a plaster cast for the weeks it will take for it to heal. Dezeen recently reported on a design concept for a 3d printed cast developed in New Zealand by Victoria University of Wellington graduate Jake Evill that is lighter, airier and easier to wear.
Instead of slathering the plaster on the broken limb, the procedure would be to take an x ray of the break and a scan of the limb outside of the break. The data would be fed into a 3d printer which would create a custom made lattice cast made of polyamide that would be put over the arm and snapped into place. Computer software would determine the optimal shape and size of the cast, with the densest support being around the fracture.
The 3d printed cast would be more comfortable and could be worn under the sleeve or pant leg. The itch and smell issues of wearing conventional casts would be taken care of. Once snapped into place it cannot be taken off until the break could be healed, whereupon the cast would be cut off. However unlike a plaster cast, the materials of the 3d printed cast could be recycled.
According to Gizmodo, a designer named Deniz Karasahin has improved on the concept with a custom 3d printed cast that has an attachable ultrasound device to stimulate bone healing. It is based on a scientific principle that such treatment can cut the time a bone heals by as much as 40 percent.
Both of these 3d printed casts are design concepts and their use in emergency rooms are considered a long way off. But it would seem that considering the number of people who manage to break their arms or legs every year, the idea of a 3d printed cast would be potentially a very lucrative 3D printing business opportunity or the medical equipment provider or some other entrepreneur who is willing to take the concept through the refinement and regulatory process to final product.