The prototype Cortex cast is lightweight, ventilated, washable and thin enough to fit under a shirt sleeve.
A patient would have the bones x-rayed and the outside of the limb 3D-scanned. Computer software would then determine the optimum bespoke shape, with denser support focussed around the fracture itself.
The polyamide pieces would be printed on-site and clip into place with fastenings that can't be undone until the healing process is complete, when they would be taken off with tools at the hospital as normal. Unlike current casts, the materials could then be recycled.
"At the moment, 3D printing of the cast takes around three hours whereas a plaster cast is three to nine minutes, but requires 24-72 hours to be fully set," says the designer. "With the improvement of 3D printing, we could see a big reduction in the time it takes to print in the future."
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