3D Printing Delivers “Glass” Eyes In Record Time

Obviously, losing an eye would be bad for your vision. But if you think about it, it is also a detriment to your appearance. You might not need a prosthetic eye, and you can certainly rock an eye patch, but a lot of people with this problem get an artificial or “glass” eye. These glass eyes are hand-painted disks that fit into the eye socket. However, a British man now has a new kind of eye prosthesis that is 3D printed, a technology that can potentially cut waiting time for patients in half.

The existing process is lengthy because it requires taking a mold of the eye socket and manually matching the remaining eye with the new artificial eye. With the 3D printed technology, scans of the eye socket and the other eye make this process much simpler.

Moorfields Eye Hospital, the source of the eye, says that a conventional eye takes about six weeks, but the new ones take no more than three weeks. The patient only needs to spend about a half-hour doing the scans before the wait starts. We presume it can be made for less cost, as well.

Medicine is embracing 3D printing and we’ve seen a 3D ear. We are waiting for our personal exoskeleton. Some of the medical 3D printing we’ve seen is for the birds.

13 thoughts on “3D Printing Delivers “Glass” Eyes In Record Time

      1. Well, before you pop it in, it must be washed in disinfectant. A friend of mine pops his glass eye each night and keeps it in a glass next to his bed, in cleaning and disinfecting fluid…

  1. My left eye is “dead”. It’s small and sits deeply in the socket. I could get a “glass eye”, which would cover it, but I decided against it when I was 8. My blind classmate and friend sneezed one day in second grade. His prosthetic eye popped out and landed in front of classroom. The teacher (~30 of experience working in the school for blind and visually impaired) ran out, and another classmate had to pick the prosthetic eye up. In high school another classmate sneezed his glass eye out in cafeteria during lunch. It fell into tureen full of tomato soup.

    That’s why I decided not to bother with glass eyes. I also don’t wear eye patches. My appearance doesn’t bother me, it might bother other people, but that’s their problem, not mine. And most of them get used to it after a while.

  2. As someone that’s lived with an ocular prosthetic for 43 years let me add this…

    I would never expect that the printed prosthetic would be lower in cost. The traditional way that ocular prosthetics are made is by impressioning of the eye cavity (just like taking a dental impression) and then creation of a plaster mold from the impression. A cast of the eye is then made in the mold from white acrylic.

    After curing the eye is polished/buffed down to remove a thin layer from the front surface and that front surface is hand painted (iris, pupil and even the individual veins on the surface of the eye). A thin layer of clear resin is applied, the eye is buffed up and bob’s your uncle.

    The vast majority of the price associated with an ocular prosthetic isn’t materials cost. Acrylic resin, buffing wheels, alginate impressioning material and paints are all very cheap products. The majority of the cost is the ocularist… the doctor who deals only with creation of ocular prosthetics. It’s labor / skill cost. It’s the fact that someone (literally.. seriously.. I’ve watched it) sits there and uses a single strand of fiber from a piece of thread to paint the finest of the veins on the surface of the schlera.

    That skill requirement isn’t going away and neither will the costs that go with it.

    1. It’s not super clear, but the source article implies that the front was not hand painted, but rather printed from an image of the remaining eye. Apparently the result looks better than a hand painted one.

    2. Why won’t it go away? It seems like only a matter of time before colour 3d printers get good enough to do everything you say there using just a scan on the socket and a photos of the other eye for the colouring.

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