By: 5 July 2016
Swapping plaster casts for 3D printing

Swapping plaster casts for 3D printing

The use of plaster splints for the rehabilitation of bones can cause infections, ulcers and even amputations because their shape prevents proper medical inspection, sweat accumulates and generates little ventilation. To avoid these problems, a group of young graduates from the National University of Mexico (UNAM) created Mediprint, a Mexican start-up that manufactures medical devices to measure, using 3D printing devices.

3D printing

Black novacast. Credit: Image courtesy of Investigacion y Desarrollo

“The material that conventional splints are made of is a highly hygroscopic plaster, meaning it absorbs sweat and causes the bacteria to proliferate because there is no ventilation,” said Zaid Musa Badwan, founder of Mediprint.

The company’s main product, NovaCast, is ten times lighter than a traditional cast, as well as being removable and able to be personalised.

“The project started when my mum had an accident and broke her left hand. Doctors gave her a bad splint and later had to surgically fracture her hand to correct it, but again they wrongly placed the cast, so she was diagnosed with a 50 per cent disability in her hand,” said Badwan.

He explained that there are cases of people who need amputations because of the misuse of the plaster and of the bacteria that grow in it. Misplaced plasters can lead to poor bone welding and permanently affect mobility.

Badwan has also designed software that allows the precise measurements needed to create the medical device to be defined without the need for a 3D scan. “It only requires the doctor to enter the data and it automatically generates the ideal geometry for the print,” he said, adding that this way the specialist can attend to other patients while the device is printed.

A new NovaCast can be obtained in an average of three and a half hours depending on the size of the patient. “We are doing research and development to reduce that time to just one hour. The next step is to take the technology to hospitals and increase the number of 3D printers, so the health centres can obtain surgical tools, custom templates or anatomical teaching models that replace the use of corpses,” said Badwan.

Source: Investigación y Desarrollo