Say good-bye to unwieldy plaster casts: thanks to 3-D printing, mending broken bones just got more fashionable.

Makers and designers have been quick to embrace 3-D printing technology, creating everything from toys to furniture to footwear. Now, the medical community is realizing its potential to tailor innovative medical devices to individual patients’ needs and tastes.

Sam Jacoby SM ’13, a marketing manager at MIT spin-off Formlabs, has noticed an increase in collaboration between doctors and designers. “There is an interesting meeting of design and more effective medicine,” he said in a recent interview with Fast Company. “All of our bodies are different. Why should we all have the same medical devices?”

Medical research and development has traditionally been an expensive and long process, requiring designs to be outsourced to manufacturers. With the advent of inexpensive 3-D printers, designers can quickly create a prototype of their device, testing and tweaking it on the fly.

The technology has been used to produce prosthetics and medical implants. Increasingly, it’s also being used to create finger splints and casts that look like more like chic jewelry. At MIT’s Mediated Matter Group, Professor Neri Oxman PhD ’10 has created a glove to help treat carpal tunnel syndrome. Customized to the patient’s own hand, her Carpal Skin distributes hard and soft materials mapped to the pain profile of the wearer.

Read about other innovative medical devices being created with 3-D printing at Fast Company.

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