Patient receives the world's first fully 3D-printed prosthetic eye

·Contributing Reporter
·2 min read
Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

A patient has been fitted with a highly realistic 3D printed prosthetic eye for the first time ever, Fraunhofer Technology has announced. Patient Steve Verze received the high-tech version as a permanent replacement for his traditional prosthetic eye. "It makes me feel more and more confident," he told On Demand News. "If I can't spot the difference, I know other people won't spot the difference."

Fraunhofer worked with British company Ocupeye Ltd on a new process that's faster and far less invasive. Previously, doctors would need to make a mold of the eye socket, something that's so difficult for kids that they need to go under a general anesthetic.

Now, the team can do a non-invasive 2.4-second scan using a specially modified ophthalmic scanner that delivers a precise measurement of the eye socket. That data is combined with a color-calibrated image of the healthy eye and transferred over Fraunhofer's "Cuttlefish:Eye" system, which rapidly creates a 3D print model. The software is particularly apt at making a "realistic representation of even transparent materials," according to Fraunhofer.

The model is then printed out by a company called Fit AG which has experience in additive manufacturing for medical technology. From there, the prostheses are inspected and given a final polish and touchup by ocularists. "With a single 3D printer, Ocupeye can potentially fulfil the annual requirement of around 10,000 prostheses required for the UK market," according to the press release.

Verze's prosthetic is a precursor to a forthcoming clinical trial that will evaluate the effectiveness of 3D printed eyes vs. traditional, hand-made eyes, according to University College London. Around 40 patients will be recruited two assess the prostheses for motility (movement), cosmesis (look), fit, comfort, mucous discharge and more. "This new eye looks fantastic and, being based on 3D digital printing technology, it’s only going to be better and better," Verze said in a statement.