3D printing a customized eye mask for a patient with Graves’ disease

Italian company Digital Maison captures accurate geometry of a patient’s face with Artec Eva to design and 3D print an eye mask for alleviating a sleep disorder.

Graves’ disease, a.k.a. Basedow’s disease, affects about 0.5% of males and 3% of females, with exophthalmos (protrusion of one or both eyeballs) being one of the common symptoms. The bulging and consequent immovability of the eye result in excessive lacrimation, photophobia and narrowing visual field. In order to remedy this pathology, treatment generally starts with pharmacological and hormonal therapy for Graves’ disease, and proceeds with surgical intervention for exophthalmos.

Patients with exophthalmos

Surgery can’t be immune from collateral effects, one of which is the possible damage of the tendinous tissue of the levator palpebrae (elevating muscle of the upper eyelid), impeding the closure of the eye and making it hardly possible for the patient to rest at night.

This was the case with a female patient, 48, who, a year after undergoing surgery, started to suffer from a sleep disorder, which could not be alleviated by aids such as sleeping masks or pads.

A 3D scanning and printing service provider in Torino, Italy Digital Maison was contracted to develop a customized eye mask for the patient.

“Kairos 3D, from who we received this job to work on, know our scanning skills and our passion for small medical projects to explore the use of new technologies of 3D scanning, modelling and printing,” says Paolo Gianolio, the owner of Digital Maison. “Our goal is to deliver rapid solutions with low-cost techniques.”

In a previous project Digital Maison designed a special shoe for a patient with severe foot deformation, using a scanner, fast modelling in Rhinoceros, and rapid prototyping on Zprinter. Paolo was one of the first researchers in Italy to write a thesis on 3D scanners 15 years ago.

“For this project we used Artec Eva, the only 3D scanner for small to medium-sized objects capable of capturing surfaces in detail with extreme ease of use and handling,” says Paolo. “The scanner’s portability has allowed me to scan directly at the patient’s house, which was a psychological benefit.”

Scanning the patient with Artec Eva

A few minutes of scanning and data processing in Artec Studio 3D object software yielded a precise, textured 3D image of the face:

The 3D model of the patient’s face obtained with Artec Eva, with and without texture

Artec Studio’s measurement tool enabled Paolo to reveal remarkable deviations in the shape of the face depending on the patient’s position (lying and sitting): the skin on the softest parts, cheeks primarily, can move up to 5 mm if the patient goes from lying to sitting.

“When the final purpose of a project is to develop a device that must fit the face perfectly, like in this case where a sleeping mask needed to be made, it is fundamental to avoid initial error,” says Paolo. “It was obvious to me that I needed to work with the scan of the face in the horizontal position. Nevertheless, it was very interesting to compare the two scans in Artec Studio and see the differences in height.”

The blue color indicates areas where skin is set back in the lying position, compared against the sitting position.

Using surface modeling in Rhinoceros 5 on the 3D mesh, Paolo designed a 3D model of the mask. The orthosis replicated the facial surface to perfection, ensuring the blocking of light and the closing of the eyelids during the night rest.

The 3D model of the patient’s face wearing the eye mask, developed in Rhinoceros 5

The final model saw several material trials with FDM print (fused deposition modeling, where the printer lays down material in layers) on a Delta Wasp 3D printer. The choice fell on Bioflex, a semi-rigid material, able to guarantee tight fit and a high level of comfort.

The 3D printed eye mask

“This project, meant to solve a particular patient’s specific problem, can be applied in similar cases where patients suffer from the same kind of disorder,” says Paolo. “The scanner can help produce a perfectly personalized device for just about any medical purpose.”

Anyone in need of an orthotic device like this eye mask, can contact Digital Maison for details.

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