For proof of just how far medical applications of 3D printing has come, look no further than the world's first 3D-printed eye.
Steve Verze, an engineer in his 40s in London, England says he has used a prosthetic eye since he was 20, and has always felt self-conscious about the way his traditional prosthetic eye looked.
"When I leave my home, I often take a second glance in the mirror, and I've not liked what I've seen," Verze said in a press release from Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, England.
Now, Verze (pictured below) is the first person in the world to receive a fully digital 3D-printed eye.
"This new eye looks fantastic and, being based on 3D digital printing technology, it's only going to be better and better."
A 3D-printed eye is a true biomimic and a more realistic prosthetic, with clearer definition and real depth to the pupil, according to Moorfields Eye Hospital. Unlike traditional methods, it uses scans of the eye instead of an invasive mold of the eye socket.
Another notable advantage of the 3D-printed eye is the faster production process. Traditional acrylic prosthetic eyes are hand-painted and take about six weeks to complete. With 3D printing, once a scan has been taken, the prosthesis can be printed within two and a half hours. It is then sent to an ocularist to finish, polish and fit. The whole process takes just two to three weeks.
“We are excited about the potential for this fully digital prosthetic eye,” said Mandeep Sagoo, a consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital and professor of ophthalmology at the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at Moorfields Eye Hospital and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology. “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.”