earFollowing on from our recent blog about the future of 3D printers being used to create ears, the print world has discovered another innovative way for printing technology to help the world of medicine.

According to wired.co.uk a company called Lantos has designed and developed a 3D scanner to help manufacture custom fitted earbuds and hearing aids.

The idea for the scanner was an innovation from a laboratory in the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in a project headed by Dave Hart. They have also used this same 3D scanning technology to assist the medical field of dental health.

Traditional custom earbuds and hearing aids are manufactured by first pouring silicone gel into the ear canal. As the silicone expands and hardens, an accurate replica of the inner ear is formed. The hearing aid or earbud is created around this hardened silicone gel to give a custom fit designed to precisely fit the ear that it has been modelled on.

Traditional scanners, like the one on the Epson Stylus Office SX525WD All-in-One Inkjet WIFI Printer, work by first illuminating the item. Once the item is illuminated, the scan head moves slowly across the item, the item is scanned and the data is then transferred to the printer memory, and from there on to your PC or laptop.

Lantos’ new system is a pencil thin 3D scanner which combines aspects of both methods. Their slim scanner is placed into the patient’s inner ear. The scanner is so small and unobtrusive, it causes no discomfort. The end of the scanner has the traditional light source of a normal scanner, but the difference is that the end has a membrane which is inflated once inside the ear, ensuring that it reaches every part of the inner ear canal.

The membrane is then filled with liquid, much like a printer ink cartridge, which allows the scanner to collate data from thousands of different points within the ear canal. This new scanner method is far more accurate method than the silicone gel method, ensuring that the user gets a more perfect and precise fit.

The obvious use of this new scanning technology is to provide hearing aids for the hard of hearing. But another major advantage is that it will be able to provide noise protection for people’s ears that are at high risk from noise pollution, such as soldiers and possibly construction workers.

So the use of 3D scanners and printers is making a massive impression in the field of medicine, as well as taking impressions of people’s ears and mouths. For those soldiers injured in battle in Iraq and Afghanistan, they may soon get their hands on a fantastic custom fitted hearing aid. Unfortunately though, as we revealed in another article, they may have to wait 20 years for an ear to hold it in place.

As scanning technology expands, you can be certain that Cartridge Monkey will provide all their customers with the very latest technology for all your scanning & printing  needs.

Source: Wired

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