Today, creating a prosthetic eye is a time-consuming activity. Only one eye at a time can be made and it often takes weeks before patients can receive them. With the possibilities of 3D printing, this will all be over. All eyes are at Fripp Design Research from London and Manchester Metropolitan University, because they claim to be able to create as many as 150 prosthetic eyes in one hour.
Their prosthetic eyes appear to be barely distinguishable from real eyes. They are expected to be implemented within 12 months and could perfectly be used in a country like India, because in this region surgeons are operating at a lower level, which results in a higher amount of people losing their eyes.
However, the problem with prosthetic eyes has always been that it’s still too expensive: if you would want to have a prosthetic eye in the UK, it would cost you about 3000 dollars. With the usage of 3D printing it will be possible to 3D print the eyes for only just about 100 dollars. This means the technique of prosthetic eyes will be affordable to a larger number of people. In other words: healthcare democratizes itself.
Creating prosthetic eyes without using 3D printing is taking so long because they are often made of medical grade plastic acrylic or special glasses. After this, they’re painted by hand in order to match the patient’s other eye. Right now it’s still a handicraft thing, but 3D printing has the ability to revolutionize the process. The team is able to digitally create an eye image and overlay it into 3D form, which has never been done before.
The team uses a ZCorp Z510 3D printer in order to produce prosthetic eyes that are fully colored. Fripp Design says it prints out the eyes in batches and it lets every match have a slightly different hue, so the eyes can accurately match with existing ones.
Images: Fripp design/ Manchester Metropolitan University.