EPlus3D Customer 3D Prints Metal Cochlear Hearing Aids – 3DPrint.com
3D printing is the dominant technology in the hearing aids industry. But so far not a lot of people have thought about cochlear hearing aids as a potential market. Cochlear implants are a series of devices working in concert that pick up sound, organize these sounds, turn them into electric impulses, and then interfaces with the auditory nerve. They can in part give someone a semblance of hearing in cases where it is absent or difficult.
An Eplus3D customer used their EP-M260 powder bed fusion 3D printer to make Ti-6Al-4V titanium cochlear implant components. The EP-M260 is a 266 x 266 x 390 mm³ build volume, dual laser PBF system with optimized powder feeding and recycling. The ear was scanned and a design for a hearing aid shell was made based on that. Then the 3D printer makes a total of 150 of these shells per build with a 30μm layer thickness. The print job takes 30 hours, using 450 grams of material at claimed total material cost of $400. The prints are then wire cut off the build plate, smoothed, and in ten minutes each of the shell’s support structures is removed. A batch then takes 30 hours to be polished. The company claims that each shell costs 25 yuan, which would be less than $4. The price makes this exciting enough in and of itself. Although we must remember that we don’t know the labor rate and depreciation the company used to get to this calculation. But, all in all, lovely number.
The company says that it can make 0.2 mm thin walls, making the implants half as thin as polymer alternatives. This makes the implant smaller. Eplus3D also says that the ¨matching success rate of the deep ear canal products is increased by 64%.¨ The internal hearing aid also has more space for receivers and the like.