May 7, 2015 | By Alec

Over the last few years more and more theoretical applications of 3D printing are becoming a reality. Most are just fun or convenient, but life-saving applications in the medical field or for developing countries are now finally reaching people as well. But a new 3D printed solution by a pair of New Zealand-based doctors are actually combining those two functions. It’s called the OphthalmicDocs Fundus, and it is essentially a 3D printed adaptor for your smartphone that can be used to easily diagnose eye conditions in the field.

The social enterprise OphthalmicDocs Limited, which is behind this clever device, was founded with the aim of transforming eye care Drs. Hong Sheng Chiong and Benjamin O’Keeffe in New Zealand. As they explain on their website, their aim is to create an environment and ecosystem that will grant people everywhere access to eye care. And that isn’t as easy as you might expect, as people in the developing world simply lack the resources and the funds for adequate health care, let alone eye care.

Hong Sheng Chiong at a recent TEDx

As Hong Sheng Chiong told reporters, the result of that lack of care is an epidemic of visual impairment and blindness in the developing world – something which has seen firsthand in countries such as Kenya, Nepal and Malaysia. ‘Based on the WHO’s estimation, because no one really knows how many blind and visually impaired people there are, but the best figures we’ve got estimate that there are at least 285 million people around the world with visual impairments,’ he said in a radio interview. 'And at least 39 million of those are blind. And 90% of them are in developing countries, of which 80% of the vision impairments are preventable.’

Image credit: the infographers

Over here in the west, people suffering from eye problems get tested by an ophthalmologist armed with a professional-quality fundus camera, but those machines (worth more than $10,000 each) and those specialisms are simply not readily available in the rest of the world, forcing millions to slowly descend into blindness.

Image credit: the infographers

As Hong Sheng Chiong said in a recent TEDx in New Zealand, ‘Ending preventable blindness is my fight’, so he has since set out to develop a smartphone-based application that will enable doctors to check eyes for initial signs of preventable complications. This worked very well, but it needs quite a lot of steadiness: one steady hand to hold the phone, another to hold the lens and finally a steady patient.

To decrease the number of variables that can prevent steady scanning, the doctor began exploring the possibility of a 3D printed adaptor that can be attached to the smartphone. Even the first PLA prototype was already capable of getting a 40 degree field of vision of the retina – comparable to most professional fundus. And thus the OphthalmicDocs Fundus was born, consisting of a smartphone, a basic lens and an adaptor. 'Viewing the retina has never been easier,’ they write on their webpage.

And as this entire concept is aimed towards making quality eye care available in every corner of the underdeveloped world, the 3D printable parts for the OphthalmicDocs Fundus will be made freely downloadable on May 8 (tomorrow). The design has been made adaptable for a large number of smartphones, so all users can benefit from the concept. The designs will also be open source, and the doctors encourage sharing improvements with everyone. 'The files will be made available in several formats such as STL, STEP and IGES.  We strongly encourage anyone with interest to download the file and make your own modification to improve the model,’ they write.

Really the only problem right now is that the OphthalmicDocs Fundus is only compatible with a single lens (which they will help you to order as cheaply as possible), but that should change in the very near future. An app that will help you to ‘self-diagnose’ a range of eye problems is also forthcoming, but of course even the slightest doubt about an eye condition should result in a doctor’s appointment. ‘We believe everyone deserves the access to quality eye care,’ they say. Would you like to build your own OphthalmicDocs Fundus? Go here to get your hands on all the 3D printable files.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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