Bettering an Experience
February 17, 2011 6:18 PM   Subscribe

"What can I use to paint a low temperature thermoplastic splint that is being worn by a five year old?

(posting for a friend)

I'm an artist and I've been approached by the mother of a young boy, Oliver, who is about to undergo a major surgery. Following the surgery Oliver will have to wear a full body splint made of low temperature thermoplastics for quite some time. His mother has asked me to paint it in a Spiderman motif to try to make the experience a little more tolerable. I've never painted on low temperature thermoplastics, what paints would I use? Additionally, the splint will only be ready the day of his surgery, so I will have to paint it while he's wearing it. My experience with plastic primers is that they are very toxic, this is something I'd like to avoid."

Thank you very much for your time.
posted by vansly to Technology (7 answers total)
This sounds like an awesome thing to do for the kid. However, I don't know how feasible it will be. Splints made out of that material are often molded and re-molded as needed during recovery. I'm not sure what exactly they do to the plastic during the re-molding process; I think it's dunked in a hot water bath. It is very possible that the Spiderman design will be ruined in places by the re-molding, regardless of what paint you use. Just something to keep in mind.
posted by phunniemee at 6:35 PM on February 17, 2011

With Punniemee's advice in mind, could you not paint the spiderman details on another surface that can be attached or temporarily adhered to the splint?
posted by katillathehun at 6:43 PM on February 17, 2011

It looks like the facility might help you themselves with scraps of thermoplastic material. In this textbook, it suggests using scraps of thermoplastic material to make flowers, smily faces, and other decorations during the initial fabrication/fitting. Also, it suggests using markers and stickers. I see a couple of good options: make the decor for the splint out of markers or scraps of thermoplastic material, and fix it as needed as they change it, or just give the kid a new set of stickers every X days. I know if I was a little person I would find the possibility of "redecorating" with a new awesome set of stickers enticing.

If they are school-age, they can use the stickers to get over the "that kid is weird" response with their classmates by passing out stickers and allowing their classmates to festoon the splint with stickers. As they build up over time, some will peel off or get damaged during the repositioning, but others will stay and it will look infinitely cooler over time (IMO).
posted by arnicae at 6:58 PM on February 17, 2011

Why...more thermoplastic, of course! Check to ensure it won't cause a problem temperaturewise with the real cast, but you can always take a cast of the cast and make a clip-on shell from that.
posted by rhizome at 7:01 PM on February 17, 2011

Chances are the plastic comes in all kinds of different colors. (I had my hand in such a splint once upon a time and the box that the therapist pulled the plastic out of looked pretty much like every box at the plastic supply place where I once bought a half sheet of Kydex. Assuming you're going for the red and blue spiderman, life would be a lot easier for you if you could start with red or blue plastic.

If you have to paint it while he's wearing it, I'd use some sandpaper to give the surface some bite, then use acrylic paints. Then use automotive pinstripe tape to do the web-work lines.

The first thing I would do is have the mother put me in contact with the doctor or therapist who will actually be making the splint. They might have dealt with this before or think it was cool and come up with all kinds of ideas that those of us who don't work with the stuff day in and day out might never even consider.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:47 PM on February 17, 2011

Get thee a xyron or access to a vinyl laser cutter and make stickers.
posted by Gucky at 7:08 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

You could email these folks at and see if their product works on thermoplastic?

Otherwise I'd go the sticker option like Gucky said, or just buy some premade Spiderman stickers and put them all over.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:29 AM on February 19, 2011

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