It may sound impossible, but the future of hearing aid manufacturing is here in the form of 3D printers. This type of equipment can make customized hearing aids, which has actually been happening for years. This type of printing is making waves in the hearing aid industry, also known as additive manufacturing. Three-D printing, not really a brand new technology, allows for far more efficiency when it comes to manufacturing and fitting hearing aids. This ensure everyone gets the perfect fit through precision and quality control – welcome news to the 35 million people in the U.S. who have some kind of hearing impairment. It’s known as additive manufacturing, and it’s getting more attention thanks to the customization trend that leads to a snugger fit for each person. This process is called additive manufacturing because rather than take something away, it adds layer upon layer to achieve just the right fit. Due to the customized nature of these devices, 3D printing is being praised for its increased effectiveness and comfort level. This revolutionary way to construct custom hearing devices means everyone can enjoy a hearing aid that fits well without having to be uncomfortable.
Bringing in about $2 billion each year, the hearing aid industry is predicted to increase by 2016 by nearly three percent. The growing use of 3D printing and laser scanning contributes to the automated machines that reduce time and labor while boosting efficiency. Before, with traditional manufacturing processes, a person could experience an OK fit overall but it may have wiggles around in the ear a bit or just not felt quite right. Now, there is no room for error and what results is a perfect match. Increasing comfort with automated processes is at the heart of 3D printing – which is thought to only be the tip of the iceberg in terms of the benefits to the industry. Fewer mistakes are made in manufacture, another benefit to this technology. A reduction in manufacturing costs has yet to be seen. 3D printing is being touted for its streamlined efficiency on the factory floor, with an increase in production thanks to the fact that one hearing aid only takes a single day to create. Hearing aids made in this revolutionary manner, combining 3D printing and laser scanning, result in a customized fit for the wearer.
A total of 10 million 3D printed hearing devices are being used by deaf or hearing impaired individuals, so this shows you how advanced and far-reaching this technology really is. Science may have replaced what used to be an intensely engaging art form, and as such you can’t discount the accuracy, speed and efficiency that this technology has afforded the hearing device industry. When used alongside 3D laser scanning, the process can be done in a single day – something that used to take weeks. The first step brings in a skilled audiologist creates a digital image of the ear canal using a special laser scanner to develop what’s known as a pointcloud, then he quality checks everything. When the model is ready to be developed, the printer spits out a shell or mold of the hearing aid in a resin form. When this is done, acoustic vents, electronics and other components must be integrated, with 150,000 points of reference created through digital cameras to apply the template to the mold. The customization is reinforced through several geometric patterns and combinations that determine the final product.