Additive Manufacturing

AUG 2017

ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING is the magazine devoted to industrial applications of 3D printing and digital layering technology. We cover the promise and the challenges of this technology for making functional tooling and end-use production parts.

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AUGUST 2017 Additive Manufacturing 18 TAKING SHAPE Expanding Options for Hearing Aid Wearers By Stephanie Hendrixson The 0.5-mm-thick 3D-printed shells of these Virto B-Titanium hearing aids pro- vide more space for interior electronics, and greater flexibility for customization. "Invisible in canal" (IIC) hearing aids are a popular choice for individuals with hearing loss. IIC devices are hidden completely (or nearly so) inside the ear canal, which can reduce ambient noise and improve sound quality for wearers. But IIC hearing aids also come with some critical tradeoffs. Because they must be small enough to fit inside the ear canal, the size of internal components is restricted and IIC devices often lack features such as volume control. At the same time, they may still be too big for some ear canals and variation in the shell for customization is limited. Hearing aid manufacturer Phonak, a member of the Sonova group, has launched a new line of IIC hearing aids called Virto B-Titanium with shells that are selective laser melted from medical-grade titanium. Because titanium is stronger than the acrylic typically used for hearing aids, the Virto B-Titanium line features walls that are just 0.5 mm thick, 50 percent thinner than Sonova's custom acrylic shells. The material and process change has allowed Phonak to improve the performance of IIC hearing aids without increasing the size of the units. Thinner walls mean more available space inside the unit for internal components—it's now possible to install more powerful receivers inside the IIC hearing aids, meaning that patients with a broader range of hearing needs can use the devices. The Virto B-Titanium hearing aids also feature smaller electronic components, making them as much as 26 percent smaller than previous models. It is currently the smallest custom product Phonak produces, and could potentially be worn by patients with smaller ear canals who were not good candidates for IIC devices in the past. thermwood Visit Booth # 42 904 Buffaloville Rd., Dale, IN 47523 800-533-6901

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