Printing for Broken Bones

I’m late. Again. Oh well.

Anyway, I’ve been looking into 3D printers for a while for making silly trinkets and things when I came across an interesting article about 3D printed casts.

Casts are used to keep a limb stable to allow it to heal from some sort of injury, usually broken or fractured bones. They’re stiff and stable to prevent any movement or further injury to the limb. Traditional casts are plaster-based, molded around the injured limb and then harden in place. There are also fiberglass options which tend to be lighter and breathe better, but they’re also more expensive. Regardless, they’re pretty similar in composition.

However, as you could probably guess, there are drawbacks to the cast types. There’s the ever-annoying itch that can’t be scratched. Also, the skin beneath is impossible to clean until the cast is removed which can result in smells, rashes, and dry skin. The plaster variety holds some weight to them and are not waterproof, so have fun trying to shower with one warm outside the shower curtain.

If you look up 3D printed casts, you’ll see people’s arms covered in a web-looking piece of plastic. Well that already solves the problem of skin access; meaning you can clean your broken limb. Plastic is also waterproof, and while you still may not be able to use your arm, you don’t have to worry about drops of water ruining your cast. 3D printed casts also tend to be lighter and usually breaks down into two pieces, meaning if you’re a little accident prone you can save it in case you may need to use it again one day. The webbing of the cast designs can also be modified to add extra support wherever your injury may be.

Most 3D printed casting is not yet available commercially (most companies are trying to find development partners), but I’m sure one day they will be. Technology may seem horribly complicated, but it really is making our lives easier.

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