Breaking your arm or leg is no fun, especially having to wear a cast for weeks while waiting for the injury to heal. While we know that additive manufacturing has been transforming the design industry, it's also making revolutionary inroads into medicine, with 3D printed prosthetic implants for animals and humans alike, giving a quicker and cheaper solution compared to conventional methods.
That's what Scott Summit of 3D Systems and prosthetics company Bespoke wants to do with casts. Instead of conventional plaster and fiberglass casts which are unwieldy, which suffocate the skin, and have to be kept dry, the company wants to create 3D printed casts that are personalized and much less bulky. Says Summit on Fast.Co Design:
The exciting thing about 3-D printing is that there’s no one area with single growth. Like the Internet in '97, 3-D printing is exploding in all directions: aerospace, fine arts, dentistry, fashion—you name it. Companies are discerning that it’s the secret sauce of competitive advantage. With a specific nod to healthcare, it’s a certain sweet spot since human needs tend to be individual. Due to our morphology, there is no 'one size fits all' solution.
Summit, who was compelled to find a better alternative when he tore an arm ligament, worked with a orthopaedic surgeon to come up with a streamlined, 5-millimetre thick design that supports the minimum three points of stabilization that would allow an arm and wrist to heal properly. A 3D scan of the patient's arm would be done, and a 3D model made that would then inform how the cast would be digitally fabricated in a way that would be comfortable for long-term wear.
The prototype that Summit and his partner created looks quite futuristic and stylish, and allows the wearer much more freedom of movement and activity. Summit admits though that the technology would have a higher initial cost (due to the personalized nature of the cast), but would take much less time to remove, and less hassle for the patient, saving everyone involved in the process time and money. These improvements make sense, given how promising new 3D printed prosthetics could be for the whole industry; we could very well be seeing more of these sleek, digitally manufactured braces in the future. Read more over at Fast.Co Design and 3D Systems and prosthetics company Bespoke.