Traditional plaster casts are a hassle. They don't allow the injured limb to breathe, they can't be gotten wet, they can't be temporarily removed, they're heavy, plus skin ulcers and infections sometimes occur beneath them. A team of Colorado-based entrepreneurs, however, has developed a 21st century alternative – the ActivArmor support device.
The process starts with the patient getting a 3D scan done on the body part in question. This no-contact procedure is conducted at a participating clinic/hospital, and takes less than a minute to perform. It results in a digital point cloud model of the limb, which is uploaded to the ActivArmor website.
The company proceeds to use that model to create a thermoplastic support device, which is custom-formed (but not necessarily 3D-printed) to match the contours of the limb. The finished product is then shipped back to the clinic, within a few business days. During that waiting period, the patient wears a temporary splint.
Depending on the injury, the lightweight support device can be made in either one complete piece that's simply slid onto the limb, or in a two-piece design that can be taken off and put back on again using a patented closure mechanism.
Wearers can bathe, swim and scratch itches while still keeping the limb immobilized and supported, plus doctors are able to see how everything is doing.
The ActivArmor system is already available in Colorado, with a wider roll-out planned to take place soon. Mexico's Mediprint is developing a similar product, the NovaCast, although it doesn't involve a 3D scan and is 3D-printed.