Wearable technology company HeyGears is reportedly investing the equivalent of $148.8 million USD (1 billion Chinese Yuan) into building a 3D printing R&D facility for the Foshan district of Guangdong, southeast China.
The facility will contribute to the “Made in China 2025” intiative launched by the Chinese government to internationally promote the nation’s industrial and technological expertise.
3D printed custom fit wearables
HeyGears was started by a group of graduate students from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. After achieving success in entrepreneurial competitions at the university, the students decided to return to China and launch a line of custom-fitting earphones.
Custom-fitting ear pieces were one of the first mass custom use cases of 3D printing in the industry. More recently Swiss tech company Sonova used the technology in its Phonak range of hearing aids and recently launched its first metal 3D printed product.
In 2015, HeyGears was backed by a $1,488,338 USD ($10 million yuan) angel investment fund. With that, they managed to create a lucrative business in the wearable sector, and now sell a range of five different in-ear products that operate wirelessly via Bluetooth.
International 3D printing expertise
The custom-fit line of HeyGears’ products is created by using a specially developed mobile app. With it, customers create a 3D scan of their ears and send it to the company, where it is 3D printed and processed within about a week.
This range however was only ever one part of the HeyGears plan. With the new R&D facility, the company hopes to branch out into new areas of development and encourage 3D printing innovation by other companies too.
According to a report from Chinese news site QQCJW, the facility will have three parts, “an international 3D printing training and education base, international 3D printing research and development center and international 3D printing production service center, which includes talent cultivation, technology, product development, CNC production and so on.” (Translated from the original)
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Featured image: Demonstration of the fit in U1 earphone. Image via HeyGears