3D-printed Cortex concept scratches the itch of healing broken bones


July 2, 2013

Jake Evill's Cortex concept uses 3D printing technology to create a bespoke exoskeletal cast

Jake Evill's Cortex concept uses 3D printing technology to create a bespoke exoskeletal cast

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The only thing worse than breaking a bone is waiting for it to heal. During the healing process itself, wearing a fiberglass and plaster cast can be a stinky, itchy endeavor that is uncomfortable and inconvenient; all for an injury that is completely internal. Enter Jake Evill's Cortex concept. Beyond having an awesome last name, Jake Evill, a media design graduate of the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, has managed to modernize the ancient concept of a splint using 3D printing technology.

Utilizing X-ray technology, paired with 3D printing and scanning, the Cortex exoskeletal cast provides a fully-ventilated structure to heal broken bones. The system uses the scanning technologies to provide a "trauma zone localized" support structure. This scanning technique, combined with a software system, would create the optimum bespoke structure that allows denser support to be focused around the fracture.

The structure would then be 3D printed, providing an ultra-light, recyclable, and (probably most importantly) shower-friendly cast. Though a plaster or fiberglass cast would take tens of minutes to create and a 3D-printed cast of this caliber would take a few hours to print, the customization, convenience, and intuitive flexibility of Evill's design can't be denied.

The concept would be ready-to-fit directly off of the 3D printer, with built-in fasteners added for the final enclosure. These fasteners would then be removed by a special tool when healing is complete.

Because of the incredibly tight structure and customized fitting, the Cortex would fit under clothing much easier than traditional casts. The open-latticed structure also provides the ability to feel surroundings, so the casted area is significantly less clumsy. It also provides easy access for scratching those inevitable itches, so wearers could ditch the rulers or skewers that are commonly employed to deal with such annoyances.

Though his design is only a concept at the moment, the obvious applications and comfortable convenience of the Cortex suggest it could make the jump to real-world product in the future.

Source: Jake Evill


Sounds like a brilliant solution to an age-old problem! 2 ideas - 1: find a (harmless) plastic that will dissolve at a suitably slow rate inside the body. 2: Using a bone scan as the template, make the splint in the OR, sliding a half-finished splint under the bone, then completing it around the bone ready to suture the wound and fasten it securely in place. Once done, with hopefully contamination out of the picture, it could be checked for healing with scans as usual, and just left to dissolve as healing is complete.

The Skud

Nice. And just think of the crazy suntan you'd get too

Ricky Hall

I could definitely see this becoming a mainstream technology within 10 years.

Racqia Dvorak

I want this as a new kind of jewelry piece.

Pc Carraway

Having been in a cast twice (and I suspect the writer, who appreciates the need for shower, may have been at least once), I think this is a killer idea and it's implementation is probably only a couple years away.


There's already something like this. Low Temperature Thermoplastic. Available in solid or perforated sheets.

It softens in near boiling water then can easily be molded to the shape of body parts. It will also bond to itself when heated and pressed together.

Best of all it doesn't take hours to make, it's even faster than a fiberglass cast.

Gregg Eshelman

I can see uses for this concept well beyond its already ingenious intent as a super cast. Its open custom form fitted lattice structure, if altered slightly so as to render it removable, could make for a wonderful impact shielding exoskeleton which could be worn as protection during extreme sports our when sparring with various hand wielded weapons such as the staff. The concept might also find its way into the actual bio amplification exoskeleton arena, assuming that it could be printed from a strong enough substrate or printed as a scaffold to which a stronger substrate could be affixed, it could then have bracing properties while being light and form fitted. This could go a long way towards making the exo' feel more natural.


As much as it looks great there are issues with point support structures as pressure sores and swelling can occur at and between the supports. ordinarily the load is shared over the whole cast and even pressure is applied to all the skin surfaces. problems occur where there is uneven pressure - as this concept would do so that smaller areas of skin carry a greater amount of supoort load. Much like a shoe thats too tight in the toes = blister. If it wqas a removable split splint where it can be removed and reapplied it may work around these issues but there is still no room for 'padding' to soften between the hard structure and the skin. Skin is a very bad supported of load. excess pressure leads to decreased blood supply to the region and necrosis (death) of the overlying skin. Hence bedsores, blisters, pressure sores and the like. Maybe with development some of these issues could be got around. Good luck coz it looks very flash.


@Gregg Eshelman, Those thermoplastics are hot after forming. That would cause burns on the skin!

Henry Van Campa

Having a broken bone as we speak (right medial malleolus), I can hardly imagine this being a practical replacement for the resin cast I was wearing up till this week (5 weeks now).

Maybe it'll have better luck as a fashion thing, but I'm a little skeptical seeing this as a potential alternative to casts.

Τριαντάφυλλος Καραγιάννης

I'm not a novice in the broken bones arena. All I'll say is - where are my buds supposed to sign?

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