China News Service, Beijing, February 28 (Reporter Sun Zifa) A newly published biotechnology research paper in Springer Nature's academic journal "Nature Communications" stated that researchers have developed a faster and less expensive method. Artificial technology can model and 3D print more realistic customized prosthetic eyes. The prosthetic eyes produced using this technology may have a more natural appearance and better fit.

Simplified diagram of a patient's prosthetic eye.

Springer Nature/Photo provided

  According to the paper, about 8 million people around the world wear prosthetic eyes, and the degree of recovery is important for both psychological identity and external appearance.

However, the current process of producing custom prosthetic eyes is time-consuming and requires highly skilled workers to hand-customize each prosthetic eye for each patient.

Generally speaking, the whole process takes more than 8 hours, and the quality of the prosthetic eyes produced varies.

An automatically designed prosthetic eye 3D printed from a variety of materials (Image by Johann Reinhard).

Springer Nature/Photo provided

  To solve this problem, the first author and corresponding author of the paper, Johann Reinhard of the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics in Germany, and his collaborators developed and tested a digital technology for producing prosthetic eyes for patients in need. They used optical Coherence tomography (OCT) scans were taken of the orbits and healthy eyes of 10 patients, and the prosthetic eye automatically adjusted to fit the shape of the orbit.

At the same time, the researchers let a multi-material 3D printer use color images to generate textured 3D models. The printing time for a single prosthetic eye was about 90 minutes, and it took about 10 hours to print 100 prosthetic eyes simultaneously.

  In this study, the authors were able to replicate the color and anatomy of the fellow eye very well, especially the color, size, iris structure, and appearance of the sclera (the white outer layer of the eyeball).

While these prosthetic eyes will still require final adjustments by the prosthetic eye manufacturer, they estimate that this method requires only one-fifth of the labor required by traditional processes, and the results are more reproducible.

The patient on the left in the picture has a prosthetic right eye, which is almost indistinguishable from his real eye.

Prosthetic eyes produced using automated digital workflows and 3D printing technology are lifelike in shape and appearance (Image from Stephen Bell, Ocupeye Ltd).

Springer Nature/Photo provided

  The authors of the paper concluded that further development of this digital technology may allow patients (such as children) who were previously unsuitable to use prosthetic eyes.

Except that some may not be suitable for very complex orbits or specific eye conditions, they estimate that about 80% of patients currently in need of prosthetic eyes can use the technology described in this study.

  According to reports, these artificial eyes are being tested in an ongoing clinical trial at Murphy Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which will focus on the long-term performance and impact of these artificial eyes compared with traditional production of artificial eyes.