3D Printed Earmold

Several hearing aid manufacturers incorporate SLA 3D printing techniques when created custom ear molds.  The process is as follows: Take an ear impression (at a clinic), 3D scan the ear impression, 3D print the ear impression.  I attempted to recreate this process (on a shoe-string budget) using a bargain-price FFF 3D printer, an inexpensive phone scanner, and a mold of my ear.

First, a friend of mine took my ear impression.

I then used a 3D scanner I downloaded from Thingiverse here to make a 3D scan of my ear impression.  I was able to make the 3D scan of my ear impression using a program called AutoDesk Remake.  This program will create a 3D computer image by stitching together several pictures of an object from different angles. Here’s a .gif of all the pictures I took with the 3D scanner.

All of the pictures were uploaded to AutoDesk Remake, and a generated 3D file was created of my ear impression!  The picture below is a screenshot of this 3D render.  It looks very realistic; The program even preserved the texture of the impression material, it is quite an amazing piece of software!

I uploaded this 3D image to my favorite 3D designing program, TinkerCad, to remove the bits a pieces of the ear mold that I don’t need/ don’t want 3D printed.

Finally, I 3D printed the trimmed file above!

One major downside to the method I used here is the inability to preserve the exact dimensions of the ear impression from the pictures I took.  The programs I used were able to accurately preserve the shape of the ear impression, but not the exact size.  A 3D scanner equipped with a laser would be able to better preserve dimensions. Nonetheless, after some tweaking, I was able to correctly size the ear mold, and it fits in my ear.  The hard plastic is quite uncomfortable, and I’d like to explore softer materials in the future.