Moorfields patient receives world's first 3D printed eye

A Moorfields Eye Hospital patient will be the first person in the world to be supplied with a fully digitally created 3D printed eye. He first tried the eye on 11 November alongside a traditionally made acrylic prosthetic. He goes home on 25 November as the first person with this digitally scanned and printed prosthetic.

Image shows Steve Verze, world's first 3D printed eye owner

Steve Verze with his new 3D-printed prosthetic eye.

Steve Verze, an engineer in his 40s from Hackney, is the first to take a fully digital artificial eye home with him. “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.

This new 3D printing process avoids the invasive process of the moulding of the eye socket. This is can be so difficult with children that they need a general anaesthetic to undergo it.

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 they would wait four to five months for the process to begin, but currently the wait is longer as there is a back log after lock down, this new development can reduce waiting times.

Every eye socket is unique. The current hand-painted process involves 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 patient has their eye scanned, and software maps out a 3D model of their eye socket for the printer. It also scans their good eye, to ensure a precise match. The files are 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 (someone who makes and fits artificial eyes) to finish, polish and fit. The whole process takes just two to three weeks.

Professor Mandeep Sagoo – clinical lead at Moorfields Eye Hospital for the trial of the new prosthetic eye and Professor of Ophthalmology and Ocular Oncology at UCL – said: “We are excited about the potential for this fully digital prosthetic eye. We hope the forthcoming clinical trial will provide us with robust evidence about the value of this new technology, showing what a difference it makes for patients. It clearly has the potential to reduce waiting lists.”

The new printed eye is a true ‘biomimic’ (meaning it is based on nature), and more realistic than alternatives, with 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.

Image shows Professor Mandeep Sagoo

Professor Mandeep Sagoo, Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology

This project has been supported by us, alongside Moorfields Eye Charity through the generous philanthropy of the Drayson Foundation. Lord Drayson, a businessman and racing driver, was born with one eye and is a trustee of the Drayson Foundation.