Implementations of 3D printing in ophthalmology

  • Adir C. Sommer
  • Eytan Z. BlumenthalEmail author
Review Article



The purpose of this paper is to provide an in-depth understanding of how to best utilize 3D printing in medicine, and more particularly in ophthalmology in order to enhance the clinicians’ ability to provide out-of-the-box solutions for unusual challenges that require patient personalization. In this review, we discuss the main applications of 3D printing for diseases of the anterior and posterior segments of the eye and discuss their current status and implementation. We aim to raise awareness among ophthalmologists and report current and future developments.


A computerized search from inception up to 2018 of the online electronic database PubMed was performed, using the following search strings: “3D,” “printing,” “ophthalmology,” and “bioprinting.” Additional data was extracted from relevant websites. The reference list in each relevant article was analyzed for additional relevant publications.


3D printing first appeared three decades ago. Nevertheless, the implementation and utilization of this technology in healthcare became prominent only in the last 5 years. 3D printing applications in ophthalmology are vast, including organ fabrication, medical devices, production of customized prosthetics, patient-tailored implants, and production of anatomical models for surgical planning and educational purposes.


The potential applications of 3D printing in ophthalmology are extensive. 3D printing enables cost-effective design and production of instruments that aid in early detection of common ocular conditions, diagnostic and therapeutic devices built specifically for individual patients, 3D-printed contact lenses and intraocular implants, models that assist in surgery planning and improve patient and medical staff education, and more. Advances in bioprinting appears to be the future of 3D printing in healthcare in general, and in ophthalmology in particular, with the emerging possibility of printing viable tissues and ultimately the creation of a functioning cornea, and later retina. It is expected that the various applications of 3D printing in ophthalmology will become part of mainstream medicine.


3D printing Bioprinting Ophthalmology Cornea Retina 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


  1. 1.
    Chen J (2018) Disruptive Technology. Investopedia. Accessed 28 Feb 2019
  2. 2.
    Kodama H (1981) A scheme for three-dimensional display by automatic fabrication of three-dimensional model. IEICE Trans Electron 237–241Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Alexandra P (2017) The complete guide to stereolithography (SLA) in 3D printing. 3Dnatives. Accessed 28 Feb 2019
  4. 4.
    Mendoza HR (2015) Alain Le Méhauté, the man who submitted patent for SLA 3D printing before Chuck Hull. Accessed 28 Feb 2019
  5. 5.
    Freedman D (2011) Layer by layer. MIT Technol. Rev Accessed 28 Feb 2019
  6. 6.
    Dodziuk H (2016) Applications of 3D printing in healthcare. Kardiochir Torakochirurgia Pol 13:283–293. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Langnau L (2016) How to determine 3D printing speed. Make Parts Fast. Digit. Netw. Accessed 28 Feb 2019
  8. 8.
    Mankovich NJ, Cheeseman AM, Stoker NG (1990) The display of three-dimensional anatomy with stereolithographic models. J Digit Imaging 3:200–203. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Eppley BL, Sadove AM (1998) Computer-generated patient models for reconstruction of cranial and facial deformities. J Craniofac Surg 9:548–556CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Pucci JU, Christophe BR, Sisti JA, Connolly ESJ (2017) Three-dimensional printing: technologies, applications, and limitations in neurosurgery. Biotechnol Adv 35:521–529. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Zhong N, Zhao X (2017) 3D printing for clinical application in otorhinolaryngology. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol 274:4079–4089. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Abudayyeh I, Gordon B, Ansari MM et al (2018) A practical guide to cardiovascular 3D printing in clinical practice: overview and examples. J Interv Cardiol 31:375–383. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Cheng GZ, San Jose Estepar R, Folch E et al (2016) Three-dimensional printing and 3D slicer: powerful tools in understanding and treating structural lung disease. Chest 149:1136–1142. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Soon DSC, Chae MP, Pilgrim CHC et al (2016) 3D haptic modelling for preoperative planning of hepatic resection: a systematic review. Ann Med Surg 10:1–7. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Liu Z-J, Jia J, Zhang Y-G et al (2017) Internal fixation of complicated acetabular fractures directed by preoperative surgery with 3D printing models. Orthop Surg 9:257–260. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Jastifer JR, Gustafson PA (2017) Three-dimensional printing and surgical simulation for preoperative planning of deformity correction in foot and ankle surgery. J Foot Ankle Surg 56:191–195. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Zopf DA, Hollister SJ, Nelson ME et al (2013) Bioresorbable airway splint created with a three-dimensional printer. N Engl J Med 368:2043–2045CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Kite-Powell J (2014) Peking University implants first 3D printed vertebra. Forbes. Accesed 28 Feb 2019
  19. 19.
    Atala A, Bauer SB, Soker S et al (2006) Tissue-engineered autologous bladders for patients needing cystoplasty. Lancet 367:1241–1246. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Bhatt A, Anbarasu A (2017) Nanoscale biomaterials for 3D printing. IOSR J Pharm Biol Sci 12:80–86. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Malinauskas M, Rekštytė S, Lukoševičius L et al (2014) 3D microporous scaffolds manufactured via combination of fused filament fabrication and direct laser writing ablation. Micromachines 5:839–858. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Bishop ES, Mostafa S, Pakvasa M et al (2017) 3-D bioprinting technologies in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine: current and future trends. Genes Dis 4:185–195. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    American Transplant Foundation (2018) 15 myths and concerns about living donation. Am. Transpl. Found. Accessed 28 Feb 2019
  24. 24.
    Gain P, Jullienne R, He Z et al (2016) Global survey of corneal transplantation and eye banking. JAMA Ophthalmol 134:167–173. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Isaacson A, Swioklo S, Connon CJ (2018) 3D bioprinting of a corneal stroma equivalent. Exp Eye Res 173:188–193. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Saunders S (2017) Biomedical research team in Spain working on 3D printed corneas to make up for lack of donors. Accessed 28 Feb 2019
  27. 27.
    Woodley M (2017) Kiwi scientists 3D print corneas from fish scales. Insight. Accessed 28 Feb 2019
  28. 28.
    Gibney R, Matthyssen S, Patterson J et al (2017) The human cornea as a model tissue for additive biomanufacturing: a review. Procedia CIRP 65:56–63. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Biazar E, Najafi SM, Heidari KS et al (2018) 3D bio-printing technology for body tissues and organs regeneration. J Med Eng Technol 42:187–202. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Ludwig PE, Huff TJ, Zuniga JM (2018) The potential role of bioengineering and three-dimensional printing in curing global corneal blindness. J Tissue Eng 9:204173141876986. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Venugopal A, Rathi H, Rengappa R et al (2016) Outcomes after Auro Keratoprosthesis implantation: a low-cost design based on the Boston Keratoprosthesis. Cornea 35:1285–1288. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Bassnett S, Shi Y, Vrensen GFJM (2011) Biological glass: structural determinants of eye lens transparency. Philos Trans R Soc Lond Ser B Biol Sci 366:1250–1264. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Hejtmancik JF, Shiels A (2015) Overview of the Lens. Prog Mol Biol Transl Sci 134:119–127. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Donaldson PJ, Grey AC, Maceo Heilman B et al (2017) The physiological optics of the lens. Prog Retin Eye Res 56:e1–e24. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Debellemanière G, Flores M, Montard M et al (2016) Three-dimensional printing of optical lenses and ophthalmic surgery: challenges and perspectives. J Refract Surg 32:201–204. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Canabrava S, Diniz-Filho A, Schor P, Fagundes DF, Lopes A, Batista WD (2015) Production of an intraocular device using 3D printing: an innovative technology for ophthalmology. Arq Bras Oftalmol 78:393–394CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Choi SW, Kwon HJ, Song WK (2018) Three-dimensional printing using open source software and JPEG images from optical coherence tomography of an epiretinal membrane patient. Acta Ophthalmol 399–402.
  38. 38.
    Maloca PM, Spaide RF, Rothenbuehler S et al (2017) Enhanced resolution and speckle-free three-dimensional printing of macular optical coherence tomography angiography. Acta Ophthalmol 1–3.
  39. 39.
    Maloca PM, Tufail A, Hasler PW et al (2017) 3D printing of the choroidal vessels and tumours based on optical coherence tomography. Acta Ophthalmol 1–4.
  40. 40.
    Lorber B, Hsiao WK, Martin KR (2016) Three-dimensional printing of the retina. Curr Opin Ophthalmol 27:262–267. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Ruiters S, Sun Y, De Jong S et al (2016) Computer-aided design and three-dimensional printing in the manufacturing of an ocular prosthesis. Br J Ophthalmol 100:879–881. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Dave TV, Tiple S, Vempati S et al (2018) Low-cost three-dimensional printed orbital template-assisted patient-specific implants for the correction of spherical orbital implant migration. Indian J Ophthalmol 66:1600–1607. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Fan B, Chen H, Sun YJ et al (2017) Clinical effects of 3-D printing-assisted personalized reconstructive surgery for blowout orbital fractures. Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol 255:2051–2057. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Callahan AB, Campbell AA, Petris C, Kazim M (2017) Low-cost 3D printing orbital implant templates in secondary orbital reconstructions. Ophthal Plast Reconstr Surg 33:376–380. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Furdová A, Sramka M, Thurzo A, Furdová A (2017) Early experiences of planning stereotactic radiosurgery using 3D printed models of eyes with uveal melanomas. Clin Ophthalmol 11:267–271. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Bannon R, Parihar S, Skarparis Y et al (2018) 3D printing the pterygopalatine fossa: a negative space model of a complex structure. Surg Radiol Anat 40:185–191. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Adams JW, Paxton L, Dawes K et al (2015) 3D printed reproductions of orbital dissections: a novel mode of visualising anatomy for trainees in ophthalmology or optometry. Br J Ophthalmol 99:1162–1167. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Scawn RL, Foster A, Lee BW et al (2015) Customised 3D printing: an innovative training tool for the next generation of orbital surgeons. Orbit 34:216–219. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Ayyildiz O (2018) Customised spectacles using 3-D printing technology. Clin Exp Optom 1–5.
  50. 50.
    Zhao F, Zhao G, Weijie F, Chen L (2018) Application of 3D printing technology in RGPCL simulation fitting. Med Hypotheses 113:74–76. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    Saunders S (2017) Johnson & Johnson announces new collaborations to develop biomedical innovation and advance 3D printing technology in healthcare. Accessed 28 Feb 2019
  52. 52.
    Sun MG, Rojdamrongratana D, Rosenblatt MI et al (2018) 3D printing for low cost, rapid prototyping of eyelid crutches. Orbit 1–5.
  53. 53.
    Navajas EV, Ten Hove M (2017) Three-dimensional printing of a transconjunctival vitrectomy trocar-cannula system. Ophthalmologica 237:119–122. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Hong SC (2015) 3D printing and ophthalmology for the community. J Cytol Histol 6:e116Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    Hong SC (2015) 3D printable retinal imaging adapter for smartphones could go global. Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol 253:1831–1833CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. 56.
    Saunders S (2017) Teenager uses AI, a 3D printed Lens, and a smartphone to develop portable system to diagnose a common eye disease. Accessed 28 Feb 2019
  57. 57.
    Bleicher A (2017) Teenage whiz kid invents an ai system to diagnose her grandfather’s eye disease. IEEE Spectr. Accessed 28 Feb 2019

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of OphthalmologyRambam Health Care CampusHaifaIsrael
  2. 2.Ruth and Bruce Rappaport Faculty of MedicineTechnion - Israel Institute of TechnologyHaifaIsrael

Personalised recommendations