Formlabs Process to Deliver Custom 3D-Printed Earbuds

Originally titled 'New Custom 3D-Printed Earbuds'

A process that uses the Form 2 3D printer and Formlabs resin to produce custom silicone ear molds is part of the "year of mass customized earbuds."

The tech world kicks off every new year with its annual CES trade show and conference in Las Vegas. At this year’s CES, Formlabs, a designer and manufacturing of 3D printing systems, proclaimed 2018 is the “year of mass customized earbuds.” The company announced through a partnership with 3Shape, a developer and manufacturer of 3D scanners and CAD/CAM software, that it has introduced a solution for custom earbuds, which was demonstrated for the first time at CES with the newly launched 3Shape Phoenix in-ear scanner.

The process includes casting a custom silicone ear mold from a shell that has been printed on the Form 2 stereolithography (SLA) 3D printer. The companies state this process has been successfully used by The Listening Stack, an ear mold lab and hearing aid center in California that provides patients with hearing aids, custom ear protection and in-ear monitors.

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According to the companies, “The human body is one of the most custom and unique shapes, and the ear canal is no exception, a truly custom-fit earbud can provide long-term wear, comfort, stability, noise reduction and noise cancellation from the environment compared to current comfort headphones.”

This process uses a method referred to as the “eggshell technique,” where companies print a shelled, hollow version of an ear mold, which is then injected with silicone to produce a custom, soft ear mold, according to Formlabs. The printed cast is cracked away from the injected silicone ear mold, like cracking an eggshell from a hard-boiled egg, the company stated.

The custom ear molds can be used for applications like hearing aids, high-end earphones musician in-ear monitors and other hearing protections.

“We’re seeing 2018 as the year custom earbuds will be available to most consumers,” said Dávid Lakatos, chief product officer at Formlabs. “This announcement marks a significant use case for 3D-printed mass customization at the consumer level, but the implications of the technology go beyond headphones to include hearables. We’re proud to be part of the growing force behind accessible, affordable, high-quality 3D printing that is making on-demand production of custom earbuds finally possible.”

The Formlabs and 3Shape technology package can be deployed in reportedly almost any mass market environment, reaching consumers where they already exist to receive an on-demand custom in-ear product within a shopping trip. The companies believe this technology has broader reaching applications that previously were only available to audiophiles or performing artists, and opens a new earphone segment that does not exist today.

This article originally appeared on CompositesWorld.com.