'Heroic' act spurs new cast tech

NICOLE PRYOR
Last updated 13:37 05/07/2013

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The scratchy, sweaty plaster cast could soon be a thing of the past, as a Victoria University graduate's sleek clip-on alternative gains international acclaim.

After being picked up by many online tech and design sites, Jake Evill's lightweight cast looks so good people have volunteered to fracture their wrists to try it out.

The fracture brace was called Cortex, and used 3D printing technology to follow the contours of the arm and provide support where the wrist needed it.

Cortex was born out of necessity after the architecture and design student conveniently broke his hand in a "heroic incident" during a fight one weekend.

"Being my first experience of wearing a plaster cast; I was surprised by just how non-user friendly those cumbersome things are," he said.

"Wrapping an arm in two kilos of clunky, soon to be smelly and itchy, plaster in this day and age seemed somewhat archaic to me."

He said there had to be some other way of supporting fractures, and went about designing a new option.

The cast, though still a prototype, would be washable, ventilated, and recyclable.

He started by researching the structure of the bone, which gave him inspiration for the lattice shape of the Cortex.

"As usual, nature has the best answers," he said.

"This natural shape embodied the qualities of being strong whilst light just like the bone it is protecting within."

He said after centuries of splints and plaster casts that had been the "bane of millions of children, adults and the aged alike", he could bring fracture support into the 21st century.

"The Cortex exoskeletal cast provides a highly technical and trauma zone localised support system that is fully ventilated, super light, shower friendly, hygienic, recyclable and stylish," he wrote on his website.

Patients would have their fracture X-rayed and the injured limb 3D-scanned.

A computer would determine the pattern and structure of the cast, with denser material around the fractured area of the bone to give more support.

After he had modelled the cast, it was sent to a factory in the Netherlands and printed in nylon plastic. It cost $US85 (NZ$105).

The cast would typically be 3 millimetres-thick and under 500 grams.

He said he still had a lot of work to do on the cast, and he was looking for partners to work with to make it a commercial reality.

Though it was still early days, the project had taken on a life of its own because of the "phenomenal interest" it generated, Evill said.

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