Feb.8, 2015 | By Kira

A Russian startup company called Zdravprint, or Healthprint, has received $100,00 from venture fund Maxfield Capital to develop their unique line of 3D printed, customizable plastic cast alternatives. Their technological innovation is waterproof, breathable, and promises to “help you avoid the annoying itchiness” while healing broken or fractured bones faster, more comfortably and more hygienically than traditional plaster casts.

Anyone who has suffered a fall or other accident that resulted in a broken arm, leg, or even finger knows the inconvenience of having to wear a conventional cast for weeks to months on end. They are heavy, itchy, and often cause the skin underneath to break out in rashes, ulcerations, macerations and even infections. To add to the discomfort, they are often bulky and must stay dry, meaning that showering and other activities becomes unnecessarily difficult.

Fyodor Aptekarev, who co-founded russian-startup-zdravprint-develops-3d-printed-casts-to-heal-broken-bones-faster- along with Aleksandr Charkassov, is more than familiar with conventional fracture plasters, having broken several bones as a result of skateboarding accidents. His personal experience was one of the main inspirations for using 3D printing to improve people’s medical situations.

The process quite straightforward: first, the patient’s injured limb, for example their wrist, is scanned three-dimensionally. A computer then makes a CAD model of the splint or cast, which is then 3D printed using a durable bio-plastic filament. The plastic can be printed in a variety of colours, and is easily heated and smoothed into the exact shape of the wearer’s body.

The final product is both waterproof and aerated, allowing the skin underneath to breathe and be washed regularly. In addition, it is lightweight, comfortable, and much more aesthetically pleasing than the bulky casts we are used to seeing. In fact, according to Aptekarev, the design of the casts was inspired by a 3D printed dress designed by Francis Bitoni and famously worn by burlesque dancer and model Dita Von Teese.

There are, however, two drawbacks to the current design. Firstly, a plaster cast is still required in the first stages of repairing a broken bone, as it allows doctors to control and adjust the initial bone union. The good news is that this stage only lasts about one week, at which point the 3D printed version takes its place. One week in a plaster cast is certainly better than a month or more.

The second drawback is the time it takes to produce each 3D printed cast. Currently, the actual printing time is roughly 12 hours, with the subsequent fitting taking less than one hour, however given how fast technology tends to evolve, it’s very likely that this time will be reduced in the near future.

In fact, Aptekarev is so confident in their technology and design that he predicts 3D printed casts will be the norm in the medical industry within the next seven years, making traditional plaster casts a thing of the past. Certainly, the $100,000 received from Maxfield Capital, a venture capital firm that invests in global seed and early stage technology companies, will help make that vision become a reality.

Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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