The next generation of hearing aids could be made in Melbourne thanks to a Victorian government grant that will fast-track the prototyping of Australian-designed hearing aids.
The $50,000 small technology grant will fund Australia Hears to use RMIT’s rapid prototyping facilities to test new hearing aid designs.
Australia Hears has already created a unique hearing aid that uses bionic ear sound processing technologies, that can be bought online and customised by the user, and that is less than half the price of competing hearing aids.
The Australian design is currently manufactured in Thailand using American-designed hardware.
“This grant will allow us to trial ‘bespoke’ manufacturing techniques,” says Peter Blamey, the co-founder of Australia Hears.
“RMIT’s advanced manufacturing precinct has a range of 3D printers using lasers and other technologies that allow us to make parts like hearing aid shells directly from the computerised design.
“The grant will definitely help us bring our next generation of hearing aids to market faster. It will halve the design time and slash the design cost by 80 per cent. Equally importantly, if it works well, we will then be able to use the same technologies to make the final product here in Melbourne.”
The grant is a $50,000 Small Technologies Industry Uptake Program Technical Voucher – provided by the Victorian Department of Business and Innovation.
Australia Hears designs and sells a small, smart, self-managed hearing aid that outperforms most conventional devices for less than half the price.
It uses technology first developed for Australia’s bionic ear, and is so simple to set up that most users can buy one over the internet and install it themselves for between $1,000 and $1500 (less than $3000 for a pair).
The user can then easily tune it and switch the settings to suit the home, work, or the pub.
The new manufacturing technologies now available in Melbourne will allow them to create new models faster.
RMIT University’s Advanced Manufacturing Precinct (AMP) facility brings together research, design and advanced manufacturing in one location, providing new opportunities for innovation and product development/prototyping.
Digital manufacturing technologies housed at the AMP include high-speed multi-axis machining centres that use subtractive processes and additive manufacturing technologies, and include Selective Laser Melting (SLM) and Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM).
The equipment can build final products direct from a computer model in diverse materials, ranging from timber and polymers, to resins and composites or metals and high tech alloys. Highly accurate digital coordinate measuring machines (CMM) will allow detailed verification for quality assurance and reverse engineering.
As a result, some traditional manufacturing processes such as cutting, milling, grinding, tool-making, die-casting and plating can be by-passed. This offers dramatic savings in time, materials, energy and other costs, and significant reductions in adverse environmental impact.
Note: Australia Hears co-founder Elaine Saunders is also the industry contact for RMIT’s AMP.
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