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3D printing looks promising for prosthetic-eye production

Batch-made plastic eyes could be much cheaper than traditional prostheses, and could benefit those in need in developing countries.

3D-printed eyes
Fripp Design's 3D-printed eyes come in many colors. Fripp Design

We've seen how 3D printing can help those who need fingers or limbs, even duck appendages.

UK-based Fripp Design has been working on 3D-printed prosthetic eyes, whose production time and cost are greatly reduced when compared with traditional manufacturing methods.

In collaboration with Manchester Metropolitan University, Fripp Design has developed batch production that turns out up to 150 artificial eyes per hour, making them far cheaper than handmade versions.

So-called glass eyes are usually made of special glass or acrylic and then meticulously hand-painted to match the user's other eye.

The 3D-printed prosthetic components, however, are printed in full color on a Spectrum Z-Corp 510. They then are encased in resin. Each has a slightly different hue, allowing for matching with existing eyes, as well as a network of veins.

While prosthetic eyes can cost as much as 3,000 pounds ($4,880) in the UK and take 10 weeks to receive after ordering, Fripp Design can print 150 units an hour. However, finishing them is much slower because iris customization remains a time-consuming job.

"Because each one is produced from the same system, the consistency is the same and the cost is drastically reduced to approximately 100 pounds [$163]," Fripp Design founder Tom Fripp told Dezeen.

The 3D-printed prosthetic eyes may be ready for market within a year and could be popular in developing countries, such as India.

Check out the slideshow below on how 3D-printed hands and fingers are helping kids with disabilities.