How EnvisionTEC 3D printing is enabling the mass manufacture of hearing aids
tctmagazine | December 08, 2017
While the likes of Adidas, New Balance and Under Armour duke it out in the attempt to bring customised wearables to the masses, boasting about the possibility of 3D printing 100,000 pairs of sneakers next year, hearing aid manufacturer Sonova can look at those figures and grin. Last year alone the company 3D printed over 1,000,000 unique custom pieces installed in millions of ears globally. Sonova may not be as well known as the sportswear giants but its two leading brands, Phonak and Unitron, are considered to be the best of the best when it comes to ‘in the ear’ custom hearing aids. In terms of market share, Sonova is very much the number one hearing aid manufacturer. A desire to be at the vanguard of hearing aid development sets Sonova apart from its competitors. Sonova’s early adoption of 3D printing and in particular EnvisionTEC’s DLP machinery over a decade ago left others trailing in the wake, eager to catch up with its lean manufacturing process. Together with EnvisionTEC, we collaborated quite intensively to bring this cutting-edge DLP technology into an on-demand manufacturing, said Mujo Bogaljevic, VP of Operations, Sonova US. We have completely transformed the way custom hearing aids are made today. The collaboration went far beyond a typical vendor-customer relationship with Sonova pushing EnvisionTEC’s development in materials science. Sonova required biocompatible materials, safe for long-term use in the ear without causing irritation or discomfort. In turn, EnvisionTEC’s process inspired and enabled Sonova to switch to a finely-tuned digital manufacturing process.