Though plaster casts have long been an important tool for orthopaedic healing for centuries, they are not free of foibles. Sweat, dirt and restricted ventilation are known to cause not just discomfort but also infections. A 21st century 3D printed alternative is set to change all of that. MediPrint, a Mexican startup by UNAM University students has recently been involved in some impressive work on NovaCast, a 3D printed alternative for plaster casts. Weighing as much as ten times less than a plaster, NovaCast can also be washed, thus solving the long-standing problem of hygiene.
The material used for plasters is hygroscopic, absorbing sweat and providing bacteria a fertile ground owing to its lack of ventilation. In case of extreme scenarios, infections can result in loss of limb; sometimes bones are not able to heal properly due to badly placed plaster casts. Naturally, NovaCast offers a great alternative.
Not only is NovaCast customizable, unlike plaster casts it doesn’t need to be removed while bathing. It leaves no room for bacteria to thrive. Interestingly, the cast is printed by generating by an algorithm as opposed to CT scan data usually used for 3D printing medical accessories. While this certainly saves on hardware costs for doctors, it also means medical professionals can focus solely on their patients and do not have to get their hands dirty with CAD and other software required for printing otherwise.
The NovaCast is a thin cast and can be printed in under four hours, depending on the size of the limb. While it is still in the developmental stage, the startup recently landed a major boost on fondeadora.mx, a crowdfunding platform, where it raised over $8,000 to expand its 3D printing capacity using a high volume 3D printer.
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