Manufacturing custom ear molds with 3D printing has revolutionized the audiology space, but accessibility to the technology has been largely limited to a handful of large ear mold laboratories. Smaller laboratories and businesses have either continued to use the traditional manufacturing approach or have outsourced their custom molds from these larger players.
Audiology applications are a natural fit for mass customization with 3D printing. The inside of every person’s ear is composed of extremely unique organic shapes and curves. In-ear moulds must be a perfect fit to assure the optimal seal and performance of the final device.
Traditionally, custom in-ear moulds are manufactured using a laborious process that requires several different casting and hand-fabrication steps. In the last decade, making a custom mould has largely shifted to a digital workflow. Digitally editing and 3D printing each custom mould allows for more consistent quality, accuracy, and better product management.
Many larger ear mould laboratories already use 3D printing in their mould making workflows. While the process is relatively established, the cost of high-precision printers has made additive technology inaccessible for smaller ear mould labs. As a result, many labs still use the traditional, impression casting approach, while others opt to outsource manufacturing.