A Moorfields Eye Hospital patient has become the first person in the world to be supplied with a fully digitally created 3D-printed eye.
Steve Verze, an engineer in his 40s from Hackney, east London in the U.K., was given the left eye on Thursday and first tried it for size earlier this month. The prosthetic is the first fully digital prosthetic eye created for a patient. The eye looks more realistic than other alternatives and is designed to have a clearer definition and real depth to the pupil.
“I’ve needed a prosthetic since I was 20, and I’ve always felt self-conscious about it. When I leave my home, I often take a second glance in the mirror, and I’ve not liked what I’ve seen. This new eye looks fantastic and, being based on 3D digital printing technology, it’s only going to be better and better”, said Steve.
The new 3D printing process avoids the invasive process of the molding of the eye socket. People wear a prosthetic eye if the eye has not developed normally from birth, if there has been an accident with the eye leaving it scarred or if the eye has had to be removed for another reason. Typically, it can take three to four months for the surgery to heal completely, but currently wait is longer as there is a backlog after lockdown; this new development can reduce waiting times.
The current hand-painted process has several steps in the manufacturing process and takes around six weeks to complete. With a printed prosthesis, the manufacturing time is cut in half.
The new process sees the specialists scan the patient’s eye socket, and software maps out a 3D model of their eye socket for the printer. The data is then transferred to the 3D printer in Germany, where it is printed within 2.5 hours, and the eye is then sent to a Moorfields ocularist to finish, polish, and fit. The whole process takes just two to three weeks.
The new printed eye is a true biommic and more realistic than alternatives, with a clearer definition and real depth to the pupil. The way light travels through the full depth of the printed eye is much more natural than current prosthetics, which have the iris hand-painted onto a disc embedded in the eye, preventing light from passing into the full depth of the eye.