Having an arm or leg in plaster will no longer be a form of torture: that, more or less, is the motto of Cortex, the light and water resistant splint which can be produced using 3D printing, as a replacement for the traditional plaster cast. The solution to the itchy the skin, inadequate hygiene and bulkiness of the conventional solution has arrived courtesy of Jake Evill, a designer who graduated from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.
Jake Evill’s prototype is yet to see the light of day, but the creative New Zealander has clear ideas about the revolutionary character of his brainchild. If it does one day come to be, Cortex could replace the plaster cast in the treatment of fractured limbs in any hospital or surgery. The new procedure would be as follows: after the X-ray examination a 3D scan is taken of the limb and sent to a computer.
From this virtual model of the injured arm or leg, a doctor can generate a personalise Cortex model which will be a perfect fit for the patient. The next step involves the use of a 3D printer to produce the splint which will be worn in direct contact with the skin. Thanks to its lightweight honeycomb structure, the new device allows the skin to perspire and to be washed without problems.
Cortex also has the advantage that it can be worn under clothing, and also allows free movement of the thumb and other fingers. There are many advantages, but before we see it in our hospitals doctors will have to confirm the effectiveness of the prototype and find the right materials to produce it at a reasonable cost.
Producing Cortex is not an impossible undertaking: there are other instances of medical devices which came about through personal initiative. One of them is Robohand, the prosthetic hand produced using 3D printing by an American designer and a South African craftsman. Finally, the use of 3D printing itself is a big plus point, because anyone can produce different prototypes in a FabLab (a digital fabrication laboratory, see here for further details) and share their know-how with other designers.
Cortex could be truly revolutionary. That must be why Jake Evill, speaking about it an almost epic tones, says:
“After many centuries of splints and cumbersome plaster casts that have been the itchy and smelly bane of millions of children, adults and the aged alike, the world over, we at last bring fracture support into the twenty-first century.”