3D printing technology is emerging on different planes and contexts including the medical industry. Much research is being developed to use 3D printing to build bio cells and 3D printed prosthetics for disabled patients. The 3D printed parts are more customizable and cheaper than the traditional prosthetics.
Zdavprint is a Russian company that focuses on 3D printing technology for medical purposes and recently received a funding of $100,000 to develop 3D printed casts for broken bones. The current casting used during the bone’s time of healing have numerous problems such as it is not customized exactly to the patient’s size, which may cause problems such as wrong bones healing or discomfort.
The new 3D printed casts aim to reduce the discomfort of feeling associated with traditional products as well as the annoying itching which accompanies it. The new 3D printed casts help to achieve faster healing for the bones compared with plastic casts.
The traditional plastic casts are heavy and may cause skin problems and even infections. The Zdavprint’s 3D printed cast’s design tries to solve most of these problems as it achieves the following:
- Customized size that fits with the patient arm or leg
- Less itching and discomfort
- More air allowed to go through the cast to the skin
- Creative designs that are not available with traditional casts
Unlike the mass production of traditional casts, the 3D printed cast is created based on each client’s specialized needs. The process starts with 3D scanning the broken arm or leg and transposing it into a 3D model that can be opened with any 3D printing software.
Then, the cast is created based on accurate measurements of the arm or leg with a creative design and colors that meet the client’s preferences or tastes. Once the 3D model for the cast is created, it is converted to a STL format that is compatible with all the 3D printers.
The STL file is sent to the 3D printer, which uses a bio-plastic filament. Choosing the proper 3D printing material is very important to avoid any medical complications that may occur during the use of the cast for long periods.
Although the new 3D printed cast looks promising, it has some issues that the company will try to solve in order to reach a fully commercial product. The first issue is that the patient still need the traditional cast in the early stage of repairing the broken bone. After one week, the patient can replace the traditional one with the 3D printed cast. This extra cost for getting two casts may lessen the technology as the patient does not want to pay for two casts that will probably not used after the healing period.
The other issue is the 3D printing time. While the patient can get a traditional cast in few minutes, the 3D printed cast takes around 12 hours to get printed. Patients with a broken arm or leg will not be able to wait for this long to get the cast 3D printed.
While there are many challenges facing the 3D printed cast project, it looks promising and overcoming the above issues can help drive commercial implementation in hospitals and physical therapy centers.