Medical & Dental

ACS Custom transforms in-ear device with 3D Systems’ Figure 4 direct solution 

ACS Custom, a UK-based production house for customized hearing protection, has implemented 3D Systems’ Figure 4 3D printer to upgrade its production of hearing aids.  

3D Systems is a US-based 3D printer manufacturer. Overall, it is supporting ACS Custom with its Figure 4 PRO – BLK 10 Plastic materials, Figure 4 Standalone printer, 3D Sprint software, and application engineering services. By applying the Figure 4 package, ACS Custom significantly scaled up its production and is now able to prototype about five iterations of a new product a day. Effectively, there has been a 4X increase in production capacity, so more in-ear devices can be manufactured, and the growth in efficiency has doubled to maximise output. As a result, material consumption has been reduced by 50%, and labor cost decreased by 80%. 

“By transforming our workflow with Figure 4, our company is being elevated to a whole new level,” said Andy Shiach, managing director at ACS Custom. “We have  been able to dramatically increase production capacity and efficiency through our ability to nest multiple parts on the same plate – producing more parts in the same amount of time.”

Figure 4 Standalone printer. Image via 3Dsystems.
Figure 4 Standalone printer. Image via 3Dsystems.

ACS Custom and 3D Systems’ collaboration 

The Figure 4 direct solution was modeled specifically for ACS Custom’s application, which is built around a 100% digital workflow. Introducing the Figure 4 PRO-BLK 10 photopolymer material played a significant role in speeding up ACS Custom’s manufacturing process. Formerly, in order to achieve the same speed, accuracy, strength, and durability obtained with Figure 4 PRO-BLK 10, production houses had to use injection with molding output. ACS also profited from the Figure 4 Standalone 3D printer as it allowed ACS to develop the hearing devices first from concept to prototype, and then to release them as final products. 

“Our collaboration with ACS Custom presented a tremendous opportunity to incorporate eggshell molding in our long list of Figure 4 industrial applications,” said Phil Schultz, Senior Vice President at 3D Systems. “Figure 4 has helped ACS not only transform their manufacturing workflow but also maintain their competitive advantage.”

ACS Custom's pin comms adaptors for in ear-communication. Photo via ACS Custom.
ACS Custom’s pin comms adaptors for in ear-communication. Photo via ACS Custom.

Figure 4 PRO-BLK 10

As the Figure 4 PRO-BLK is a material that can be used for the production of small black plastic components, it was useful in producing small-scale parts for the in-ear device. It has physical, mechanical, and thermal material properties, as well as UL flammability and electrical functions. The properties of the material were in line with the medical regulations put forward by two ISO standards evaluating biological risk linked to medical devices. Both the ISO10993-5, a medical standard assessing in vitro toxicity and the ISO10993-10 certifying irritation and skin sensitization, were carried out. Passing these tests meant that the Figure 4 PRO-BLK is approved to be used for manufacturing medical devices. 

“Our collaboration with ACS Custom showcases how the Figure 4 solution enables direct and indirect digital production to increase efficiency, capacity, and flexibility,” said Scott Anderson, VP and segment-leading for manufacturing and prototyping at 3D Systems.   

Figure 4 Standalone and 3D Sprint Software 

The Figure 4 Standalone printer, combined with the PRO – BLK 10 material,  played a crucial role in taking the products from prototype to final product. The cocktail of the printer and the material resulted in print speed reaching up to 62 mm/hr at 50-micron layer thickness. Hence, equipping ACS with new levels of productivity. 

3D Sprint Software, an additive manufacturing software, was also deployed as an element of the digital solution. “3D Sprint is very intuitive in terms of layout” explained Dan Bennett, technical director at ACS Custom. “When the outside surface quality is important, we can reduce the touchpoint size and position of supports with precision.” 

The fact that certain features were easily manipulatable allowed the engineers to make the hearing device more comfortable for the customer. 

3D Systems 3D Sprint Software. Image via 3Dsystems.

3D Systems and Manufacturing 

Recently, the Figure 4 3D printing platform also saw an expansion in material selection, thus widening its span of applications. Alongside Figure 4, the SLA 3D printer will equally undergo this update. The new materials include Figure 4 RUBBER-65A BLK, Accura Fidelity, Accura Bond, Accura Patch, and Figure 4 JEWEL MASTER GRY. In particular, the RUBBER- 65A BLK is likewise biocompatible with the same medical evaluations implemented by ACS Custom. 

3D Systems’ software has been upgraded, as two new versions of its Geomagic Design X and Geomagic Wrap 3D scan processing software packages have been announced. In relation to the production of medical devices, these operating systems will make it easier for engineers to produce higher-quality products and ensure highly precise manufacturing. The Geomagic Wrap 2021 sees the possibility of transforming 3D scans directly into importable files ready to be used as 3D models. For hearing devices, this would ensure correct measurements of the patients. 

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Featured image shows a set of ACS Custom’s in-ear device manufactured with 3D Systems Figure 4 solution.