Could the 3D-printed cast put plaster to pasture?
If you've ever had a cast on an arm or leg, then you'll know how uncomfortable, awkward and inconvenient they can be. That's why the NovaCast was created, by Mexican startup Mediprint. It's a 3D-printed cast which is custom-made for each patient as needed, and that addresses many of the limitations of traditional plaster casts.
Reminiscent of Jake Evill's Cortex concept, the NovaCast takes the form of an open plastic framework as opposed to an enclosed plaster (or fiberglass) casing.
This allows it to hold broken bones in place, while still letting the injured appendage "breathe." Additionally, unlike the case with plaster, its plastic construction won't absorb sweat or other fluids. As a result, skin ulcers and infections are less likely to occur, and itches can more easily be scratched.
It's also said to weigh one tenth as much as a plaster cast, it can be temporarily removed, it's invisible to X-rays, and it can be gotten wet while bathing. Although hospitals utilizing the technology will require one or more 3D printers, a 3D scanner isn't necessary – instead, users just input a variety of key measurements of the patient's arm or leg.
It presently takes an average of three and a half hours to print a single NovaCast, although the developers are hoping to bring that figure down to one hour before releasing the system commercially. The technology could ultimately save doctors time, as they would be able to leave the printer to create the cast while they attended to other patients, instead of having to build up a plaster cast themselves.