This 3D printed Hemispherical Bionic Eye prototype may be the Ultimate Cure for Blindness

Researchers hope the invention could one day restore sight for the blind. Photo Credit: University of Minnesota
Medical applications for 3D printing often sound like science fiction, due to the technology’s novelty and the frequent appearance of bionic body parts in pop-fiction movies. However, The 3D printing technology is real and has quickly found astounding applications in many industries, from 3D printed guns to Bionic Arms and Muscles. Right now, researchers have used 3D printing technologies to create light receptors on a hemispherical surface which could pave the way for future bionic eyes.

Academics from the US University of Minnesota stated that the invention is a "significant step" towards the creation of synthetic eyes which could either restore sight for the blind or improve levels of sight for the visually impaired.

3D printing on straight, flat surfaces is common, but attempting to print delicate components reliably on curved surfaces represents a challenge. The team began their journey with a hemispherical glass dome, which approximates the spherical surface of organic eyes.



The semiconducting polymers were used to print photodiodes, which convert light into electricity, on top of the silver ink.

The process took roughly an hour to complete, and once dry, the sphere was tested for electricity conversion. According to Michael McAlpine, a co-author of the study and University of Minnesota Benjamin Mayhugh Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, the eye's energy generation was 25 percent efficient, which is considered a good result.

If a bionic eye is going to function, continuous power is required and solar energy is a renewable source.

The photodetectors can then provide the power for image-sensing arrays with "high sensitivity and a wide field of view," according to the team.

The next step is the creation of a further prototype which is able to support more light receptors which have greater efficiency. In addition, the team has begun exploring soft materials in the hunt for something suitable, spherical, and able to be implanted into an organic eye.

Ref: Academic Journal - Advanced Materials