A Victoria University of Wellington School of Design student, Jake Evill, in New Zealand, created a 3D printed alternative to the traditional plaster cast for fractured limbs. Called the Cortex Cast, his design is more lightweight, breathable, and hygienic than fiberglass or plaster casts currently being used, while still providing support for the healing process.

Evill’s sleek, eye-catching design has been creating a lot of Internet buzz. But, he says that Cortex was born out of necessity after he broke his hand during a fight. “Being my first experience of wearing a plaster cast, I was surprised by just how non-user friendly those cumbersome things are,” he said. So, he used 3D printing technology to follow the contours of his arm and provide support where his wrist needed it.

The cast, though still a prototype, would be washable, ventilated, and recyclable. He started by researching the structure of the bone, which gave him inspiration for the lattice shape of the Cortex.

“This natural shape embodied the qualities of being strong whilst light just like the bone it is protecting within,” he said. “The Cortex exoskeletal cast provides a highly technical and trauma zone localized support system that is fully ventilated, super light, shower friendly, hygienic, recyclable, and stylish,” he wrote on his website.

He envisions that patients would have their fractures X-rayed and the injured limb 3D-scanned. Then, a computer would determine the pattern and structure of the cast, with denser material around the fractured area of the bone to give more support. After he modeled his cast, it was sent to a factory in the Netherlands and printed in nylon plastic. He said the cast would typically be 3mm thick and weigh less than 500 grams. He is currently seeking commercial partners.