A Moorfields Eye Hospital patient will be the first to benefit solely from a fully digital 3D printed prosthetic eye.

Hackney engineer Steve Verze will go home from the Old Street hospital with only a printed eye fitted on Thursday (November 25). He first tried his eye on November 11 alongside a traditional acrylic prosthetic.

This new 3D printing process avoids the invasive moulding of the eye socket, which can be so difficult it can require a general anaesthetic when the patient is a child.

Steve said: “I’ve needed a prosthetic since I was 20, and I’ve always felt self-conscious about it. When I leave my home I often take a second glance in the mirror, and I’ve not liked what I’ve seen. This new eye looks fantastic and, being based on 3D digital printing technology, it’s only going to be better and better."

Professor Mandeep Sagoo, consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields and professor of ophthalmology at the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at Moorfields Eye Hospital UCL and Institute of Ophthalmology, said: “We are excited about the potential for this fully digital prosthetic eye.

"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.”

The printed eye is more realistic, with clearer definition and real depth to the pupil. The way light travels through the full depth of the printed eye is more natural than current prosthetics, which have the iris hand-painted onto a black disc embedded in the eye, preventing light from passing the full depth of the eye.

The current process can take six weeks but that time is halved with 3D printing, and scanning ensures a precise match.

This collaborative project involves software work with Ocupeye and Fraunhofer, then the eyes are printed through Fit AG in Germany. A clinical trial will be starting at Moorfields.

This project has been supported by the National Institute for Health Research Moorfields Biomedical Research Centre, and by Moorfields Eye Charity through the philanthropy of the Drayson Foundation.