Plaster casts are bulky, obnoxious, heavy, inevitably sweaty, occasionally pink. In short, they are no fun. But this 3D-printed "Cortex" cast could change all that. Sure, it looks a little like a fishnet stocking, but have you seen a old-fashioned cast lately?
A conceptual project designed by a Victoria University of Wellington graduate with the suspiciously awesome name Jake Evill, the Cortex cast is lightweight, ventilated, washable and thin thanks to its polyamide skeleton. But the bonuses aren't all for the wearer; the material of Cortex casts could be reused, unlike plaster.
It's just a concept and prototype for now, but ideally, computer software would be fed x-rays of the break and 3D scans of the limb, and design an appropriate cast shape for fixing it up, with the cast's densest parts concentrated around the actual break. The cast could then be printed out in pieces and assembled around the break with permanent fasteners. When all is said and done, it'd still have to be sawed off as usual.
Then there's the matter of time. Evill explains it this way:
At the moment, 3D printing of the cast takes around three hours whereas a plaster cast is three to nine minutes, but requires 24-72 hours to be fully set. With the improvement of 3D printing, we could see a big reduction in the time it takes to print in the future.