Researchers 3D Print the Prototype for Bionic Eye

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Using custom built 3D printer, the dispensed ink stayed in place and dried uniformly instead of running down the curved surface  

A team of researchers at the University of Minnesota had 3D printed an array of light receptors on a hemispherical surface. This discovery marked a step towards creating a bionic eye that could someday help blind people see or sighted people see better.

Custom-built 3D printer to print curved surface

Researchers started with a hemispherical glass dome to show how they could overcome the challenge of printing electronics on a curved surface. Using their custom-built 3D printer, they started with a base ink of silver particles. The dispensed ink stayed in place and dried uniformly instead of running down the curved surface.

The researchers then used semiconducting polymer materials to print photodiodes, which convert light into electricity. The entire process takes about an hour. According to researchers, the most surprising part of the process was the 25 per cent efficiency in converting the light into electricity they achieved with the fully 3D-printed semiconductors.

McAlpine, co-author of the study told that they have a long way to go to routinely print active electronics reliably. Their 3D-printed semiconductors have started to show that they could potentially rival the efficiency of semiconducting devices fabricated in microfabrication facilities.

He also mentioned that the next steps are to create a prototype with more light receptors that are even more efficient. They’d also like to find a way to print on a soft hemispherical material that can be implanted into a real eye.

Well, the research was funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering of the National Institutes of Health, The Boeing Company and the Minnesota Discovery, Research, and InnoVation Economy (MnDRIVE) Initiative through the State of Minnesota.