Light, breathable, washable, recyclable: a future 3D-printed green cast?

Home/Green News/Light, breathable, washable, recyclable: a future 3D-printed green cast?

Ever broke an arm or a leg? Was your first thought one of stinky, itchy, skin peeling limb? Probably. And because the list of plaster cast drawbacks does not stop there, a green mind would probably add: piles of non-recyclable waste….

Pain, itchiness, stinky smell, peeling skin, plastic bag to get in the shower and NO pool in summer time, anyone? The only cool factor, so to speak, is the art you can get from your friends on your plaster cast. Besides healing your broken limb, that’s about the only use it is good for…

How big exactly is the fracture issue anyway? There are 6.3 million fractures in the US each year, mostly of the wrist. That’s 1 happening every 5 seconds. Over a lifetime, a person is expected to sustain 2 fractures, which is about 2.4 people out of 100 per year. And with 6,600 tons of medical waste produced in the US daily, increasing at the rate of 15%+ per year since 1992 (either transported to landfills (for general waste) or incinerated (for regulated waste)), this is an area well worth giving some smart thoughts to ease up patients’ inconvenience and green up the process, if possible.

Well, things could possibly soon be about to change for the better on both fronts… While still at prototype stage, the Cortex dubbed Exoskeletal Cast is a very promising 3D printed concept. 

Imagined by Jake Evill, a graduate from the Architecture and Design school at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, this new cast would not remove the pain from the fracture and would take longer to build than a regular plaster cast… BUT it is light, hygienic (breathable and washable), scratchable AND recyclable. An eco-friendly cast? Beat that! 

Patients would first receive an x-ray to pinpoint the nature of the break, then would have their arm scanned to determine the outer shape of their limb, and finally, the Cortex cast would be 3D-printed. It would sport optimized levels of support around the break area to provide a snug fit and would snap closed on the limb. Hello cool design allowing regular clothes, trouble-free showers and easy scratching access!

As for waste, once the fracture is healed, no more trip to the landfill, the material would be recycled and reused. There isn’t additional information on the type of material to be used just yet, but the idea is clearly to be eco-friendly.

Hopefully, more to come soon.

Check out the full article at:

Credit photo:  Jake Evill

* Up for some thought-sharing on this topic?  
Dubbed the third industrial revolution by some manufacturing experts, 3D printing is a fast-developing, rising, very promising technology on many levels. From an green standpoint, it will allow some small businesses to make their own product prototypes AND productions runs, saving both on material waste AND transportation (repeated shipping of products) carbon footprint.
Focusing on very wasteful products and material when trying to improve recyclability is always a good idea.
  • Given the amount of single use, hazardous items used daily for patients care, hospitals seem to be the perfect are to focus efforts on. Do you think of others?
Let us know… 


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