Researchers have fully 3D-printed an array of light receptors on a hemispherical surface.
Bionic eyes are usually thought of as science fiction,” study co-author Michael McAlpine, professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Minnesota, said in a statement. “But now we are closer than ever using a multimaterial 3D printer.
While a number of visual prosthetics are currently under development across the globe, none have tapped into technology in the same way as the Twin Cities team.
Their clever hemispherical glass dome makes it easier to print ink and photodiodes (used to convert light into electricity) directly onto a curved surface—pretty ideal for replicating the human eye.
The entire process, which is still in its infancy, takes about an hour to complete, according to the University.
Known for integrating 3D printing, electronics, and biology in a single platform, McAlpine & Co. previously designed a “bionic ear,” artificial organs, “bionic skin,” and cells, among other innovative products.
The next step is to create a more efficient prototype with additional light receptors; there is also talk of printing on a soft hemispherical material that can be implanted into a real eye.
3D printing has been used for project big (building a house) and small (creating color-changing accessories).