Fiberglass casts may soon be of the past. A company called 3D Systems, a major player in the 3D printing game in collaboration with Bespoke, a company that developed prosthetics and braces developed a new cast using the technology or 3D printing. 3D printing is exploding in all directions such as dentistry, fashion and throughout the healthcare field including surgery and rehabilitation. Many believe 3D printing is the secret to sustaining a competitive advantage for the future.
With a specific nod to healthcare, it’s a certain sweet spot since human needs tend to be individual. Due to our morphology, there is no 'one size fits all' solution, especially when it comes to injuries
In collaboration with an orthopedic surgeon, Summit worked with his business partner, an orthopedic surgeon, to develop a 3-D printed cast that would keep his wrist stable and make the healing process more efficient.
Traditional casts come with tons of downsides: It's impossible to keep your arm clean, showering becomes an ordeal since you can't get the thing wet, and your skin isn't allowed to breathe.
Working with a team of designers with advanced technical expertise—a perk of being in the industry—Summit 3-D scanned his arm, created a 3-D model of it, and tailored a cast to fit precise specifications.
They found that there needed to be three points of fixation to his arm and three points of fixation to his hand to keep the wrist stable and allow the ligament to heal properly after surgery.
They fashioned the cast to sit on his arm in such away that it didn't rest in an area where there wasn't much tissue between the skin and bone (to avoid discomfort), where it wouldn't sit on major nerves, and wouldn't constrict blood flow.
The cast is 5 millimeters thick and it's a fraction of a traditional cast's heft. At first glance, it doesn't seem like it's a stable enough structure, but that's only from the context of having too much structure with a fiberglass cast.
That's done more for the convenience for the doctor versus the quality of life for patient. It's not the best way, it's just the way it's been done. The 3-D printed cast allowed Summit to shower like normal, to apply heat and cold directly to his wrist, and to use scar-reduction cream right on his skin—things that wouldn't be possible with a normal cast.
These measures helped to reduce swelling and increased circulation.