Khalifa University of Science and Technology, a consistently top-ranked research-intensive university based in Abu Dhabi, has developed a new method to manufacture customized glasses using 3D printing that could help people with colour blindness. Colour Vision Deficiency (CVD) is an inherited ocular disorder that manifests itself by limiting the retina cones’ ability to transmit the whole spectrum of colours.
With red-green colour blindness being the most prevalent form of CVD, the most common way of dealing with everyday difficulties is by wearing tinted glasses. Now, a team of researchers from Khalifa University has developed lenses using transparent resin mixed with two wavelength-filtering dyes to provide a tinting effect. To customise the lenses and make them as similar as possible to commercially available products, the team used two dyes – one blocked the undesired wavelengths for red-green patients, while the other filtered unwanted wavelengths for yellow-blue patients, with volunteers for both groups attesting to the lenses’ efficacy.
Even though glasses based on this method are commercially available at present, they are not comfortable for wearing, nor optimizable. However, the Khalifa University research team has developed its own frames for the lenses, using 3D printing to optimize the frames for comfort and usability, making them as close as possible to regular glasses.
Dr. Haider Butt, Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering, Khalifa University, said, “Our results showed that 3D printing had no influence on the wavelength-filtering properties of the dyes. In fact, the dyes remained unchanged as they were integrated with the resin and 3D printed. When we compared the optical performance of our glasses with commercial glasses for colour blindness, our results indicated that our 3D-printed glasses were more selective in filtering undesired wavelengths than the commercially available options. They have great potential in treating colour blindness, and their ease of fabrication and customization means they can be tailored to suit each individual patient.”
The glasses underwent several tests to address toxicity, durability, and longevity concerns. These tests included storing the glasses in water for over a week to analyze whether any dye would leak and leaving them out in the open under ambient conditions for another week. The glasses exhibited tensile strength and flexibility, proving their stability and long-lasting properties.
Khalifa University’s research outcome presents an opportunity for people with color blindness to mitigate their inability to distinguish between shades of certain colours that could restrict them from working in fields where color recognition is critical, in addition to carrying out everyday tasks. The research was funded by organizations from Abu Dhabi, including real estate developer Aldar Properties, and Sandooq Al Watan, a social initiative.