It was a bit traumatic when Dr. Mike North broke his fibula.
North, a TV host for Outrageous Acts of Science with a taxing travel schedule, was less than pleased with the idea of facing treatment with a traditional leg cast. He wanted a solution that was both durable and easy to remove, so he got in touch with the designers and engineers at FATHOM.
The FATHOM designers use their expertise in 3D printing and additive manufacturing to help customers innovate, and they specialize in professional 3D printers and manufacturing systems, prototyping, and advanced manufacturing services. The studio also offers design and engineering resources and they use PolyJet-based 3D printers, FDM-based 3D printing production systems, SLS machines, laser cutters and a complete model shop to take on a variety of design challenges.
The device they came up with for North is, admittedly, a bit over the top as it includes an array of technologies from a gyroscope to lighting and speakers, but the BOOMcast is an amazing demonstration of 3D printing nonetheless.
The cast can send real-time medical information to a doctor, play music from a smartphone, and collect data–all while looking very high-tech indeed.
The 3D printed body of the cast and the ratcheting straps which hold it in place on the leg were printed in Nylon 12, while the sole piece of the cast was built with PolyJet multi-materials. The entire case was custom fit using data from a digital scan.
The cast is powered by an Intel Edison chip and is WiFi-enabled. It includes a gyroscope, accelerometer, and magnetometer, along with a set of force-sensitive resistors. It boast the capability of sending real-time data via the cloud and can output mood lighting from multi-color LED feedback bulbs.
The four, force-sensitive resistors are used to measure the contact pressure at various points on the patient’s leg, and that data can let a doctor know if the patient is following orders for recommended load-bearing conditions.
But perhaps the wildest feature of the BOOMcast is the speaker system. The system can be activated with a couple of stomps to provide hands-free interaction to change songs, and it also plays a low-frequency tone which researchers say can help heal a fractured bone.
North broke his leg while celebrating the life of his best friend, Dan Fredinburg. Fredinburg, an executive at Google, was killed in a tragic avalanche accident on Mount Everest earlier this year. It was his friend’s approach to life that led North to seek out Studio Fathom in search of a solution to his need to stay busy and honor the wishes of his friend.
FATHOM says it’s not likely the BOOMcast will be a full-fledged consumer product in the near term–but as a proof of concept, it proved an excellent demonstration of how open-source development and Internet of Things technologies can be used to build novel and more effective products and treatments.