Digital Method for Improved Custom Hearing Protection Equipment
Small Business Information
2020 Kraft Drive, Suite 3040, Blacksburg, VA, -
AbstractCustom fitting hearing protection earplugs have been shown to provide substantial benefits for personnel working in high noise environments such as around military aircraft and in a range of other war fighter and civilian industrial scenarios. Current manufacturing processes for shaping custom earplugs require that physical impressions be taken of customer''s ear canals. Since this involves injecting silicone material directly into the ear, physical impression taking can be uncomfortable for the customer and yield results which will vary with the skill and technique of the practitioner. The SBIR Phase I predecessor to this Phase II program developed new means, based on Computed Tomography (CT) imaging technology, for capturing ear anatomy information without the need for physical impressions. Eliminating the physical impression will also eliminate the associated discomfort and variability and lead to happier users getting more reliable hearing protection. The Phase I program further demonstrated feasibility of completing a custom earplug manufacturing process using only digital data, starting from a non-invasive CT scan through production to a finished hearing protector product. The proposed Phase II program will refine the technology and logistical model to prepare for production-quantity implementation. The effort has two overarching goals. One is to better optimize the software and hardware components of the system to streamline all elements of the digital process from customer ear measurement through digital design of the hearing protector. The second main goal is to advance the art of designing hearing protectors using the extra anatomical information made available by this technology.
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