We’ve seen a lot of biomedical applications for 3D printing in recent years—the medical industry is a natural breeding-ground for marketable ideas which require the extreme customization that 3D printing and scanning can provide. The promising real estate for 3D printing in human anatomy is diverse, and has many open doors for innovations ranging from the incomprehensibly complex, to the remarkably simple.


As we all know, sometimes the best innovations are the simple ones—those which seem obvious in retrospect. These are the ideas and inventions which evoke that classic retort within our minds: “It’s so logical I’m surprised no one has done that already”. Well, hindsight makes us all geniuses, and with that, it is worth taking a moment to appreciate the work of Jake Evill, a recent Design graduate from the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, who has brilliantly applied 3D printing technology to the broken-limb industry.


Using specialized algorithms and digital processing, Jake’s CORTEX® cast can be custom-manufactured to suit the specific fracture(s) of each individual patient. By combining various aspects of 3D scanning and X-Ray technology, unique casts can be generated digitally to suit the pressure and placement needs demanded by the exoskeletal brace—a big step forward from the increasingly-archaic modern-standards for fracture alignment.


The inspiration for the honeycomb-like structure was derived from the trabeculae, which are the organic beams, struts and rods that comprise the lattice structure geometry in inner-bone tissue. It’s somewhat of a coincidentally-convenient aesthetic, in that many of the 3D-printed items on the market today share that characteristic honeycomb mesh appearance—more often than not, to cut-down on the amount of resin used and also to showcase (if not flaunt) the capabilities of 3D printers which can create those desirably-complex shapes that are difficult to injection mold. For the CORTEX® structure, however, this geometry makes the most sense. Granted, it also makes it more difficult for your peeps to sign your cast…but hey, you wouldn’t be having your friends signing your designer shirt, so maybe that’s a worthy setback for sporting a hip bone-brace.


The original prototype design was printed by Shapeways at their facility in the Netherlands. Future models will be ~3mm thick and will weigh less than five-hundred grams. They will also be fully waterproof and recyclable, and they won’t have that oh-so-odiferous rotting fabric stench that often reeks outwardly from the under-layers of plaster and fiberglass casts. As an added bonus, you might even get some one-of-a-kind tanlines to remember your injury by!


Jake Evill recently won the New Zealand National James Dyson Award for his design—way to go man!

(Images via Jake Evill)