Casting a New Light on Manufacturing

3D printing brings new possibilities to a functional part we might have never thought of as a functional part: the rigid cast used to heal bones.


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Have you ever thought of your doctor as a manufacturer? I haven’t. But in the case of a broken bone, that is precisely what the doctor is. The doctor, or a medical assistant, creates a custom, functional product for the patient to use: a cast.

The virtues of the “NovaCast” from Mexican startup MediPrint illustrated in this video will be obvious to anyone who has ever worn a plaster cast. Indeed, my daughter once wore a cast on exactly this area. The cast seen here, which is created through 3D printing after scanning the patient, is fully waterproof and washable, fits easily beneath clothing, and provides ample open space for scratching an itch.

Bringing 3D printing into the doctor’s office in this way illustrates how additive manufacturing expands the boundaries of what we think of as manufacturing. In the past, some products such as a cast, or dental crowns, seemed too personal and customized for industrial manufacturing methods or thinking. Additive manufacturing, with the freedom it offers to customize complex forms, changes this.