If you’ve ever worn a cast for a broken limb, you’ll know how uncomfortable and wretched it can get. The urge to break the thing off and start itching sometimes is tremendous. The old-fashioned plaster cast is effective, but heavy and awkward (and only made slightly better by all the doodles you can collect from well-wishers).
This “lightweight, ergonomic, waterproof, ventilated, fully supportive neo-cortex” is an alternative–sort of. At the moment it is still in the development stage, though its creator–21-year-old Jake Evill, from New Zealand–is passionate about making it a full reality.
Evill got the idea after breaking his hand “in an heroic incident protecting a friend,” as he says via email. “This being my first experience of wearing a plaster cast, I was surprised by just how non-user friendly these cumbersome things are. Wrapping a limb in clunky plaster in this day and age seemed archaic to me.”
He thought there must be another way, and started developing the Cortex Fracture Support System over the next two months, making several prototypes. His idea is to 3-D scan a limb to create a structure that offers support only where it’s needed. The cast itself is 3-D printed using a recyclable plastic, and is about a quarter of the weight of a conventional cast (about 1 pound).
Evill says the honeycomb design is inspired by the structure of bones themselves. “As usual, nature has the best answers. This natural shape embodied the qualities of being strong while light–just like the bone it is protecting within.” He hasn’t tested it with actual breaks yet, but says he has had plenty of discussions with professionals who’ve given “positive assurances that it can work.”
The concept is an entry to this year’s Dyson Award, which announces a winner in November.
But, triumph or not, Evill wants to develop it further. “I would like to [get this] into production, as I feel that it is an innovative idea that will help people have a more comfortable recovery,” he says.