By Joris Peels
Sept. 25, 2014
We’re doing a series of stories on the biggest story you’ve never heard of, 3D printing hearing aids. Over 10,000,000 3D printed individualized pairs of hearing aids have been made. Today we explore why 3D printing works for this application.
Why 3D printing?
So why would 3D Printing work for this application? Why in a few short years did 3D printing wipe out all the traditional manufacturing processes for hearing aids? There are a number of reasons for this. Also if we look at other products what key factors have to exist in order for a 3D printed mass consumer product to be viable?
1. First off 3D printing is efficient for making small things but not as good at making big things. Time in the machine and speed of the machine are critical cost factors. 3D Printing materials are expensive. The larger the object the more expensive it is to produce. Want a ring sized plastic thing? That will be a $1. Want a 3 person couch? That will be 50,000.
2. The individualization greatly affects the consumer. The more individualized and customized this product is, the happier the consumer. A hearing aid is meant to stay in your ear all day and if it is more comfortable you will be happier with it.
3. Customizability, is a clearly identifiable key quality the product has to be posses. This quality is well understood by both the consumer and the manufacturer. Because this is the case the manufacturer is willing to completely alter his production methods in order to please the customer.
4. The parts were functional. For the hearing aid application the parts were very small but also within spec for the hearing aid application. So the 3D printed parts were strong enough and lasted long enough.
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