Many industries have been influenced heavily by 3D printing, but perhaps none so heavily as the hearing aid industry. More than a decade ago, EnvisionTEC 3D printed hearing aids for hearing aid manufacturer Sonova, specifically its Phonak brand. Sonova was beyond impressed with what 3D printing did for its product – it was able to provide a level of customization, comfort and fit that previous manufacturing technology could not accomplish. Siemens, Materialise, 3D Systems and other firms all industrialized the 3D Printing of custom ITE (In the Ear) hearing aids. Once other hearing aid companies got wind of this, they wanted to try 3D printing as well – and within two years, traditional manufacturing techniques had all but disappeared from the custom hearing aid industry, replaced by 3D printing.
Most people might not think of hearing aids as being something that are technologically ahead of their time, but the industry wholeheartedly embraced 3D printing at a time when many people had still not heard of the technology. Hearing aid wearers can thank 3D printing for the customized comfort and fit of their devices.
Other companies following in Sonova’s 3D printed footsteps include French hearing aid manufacturer Surdifuse-L’Embout Francais. The company, which was formed from the merger of Surdifuse and L’Embout Francais in December 2017, manufactures hundreds of thousands of hearing aids with customized ear tips every year, as well as hearing protection devices. 50 percent of the production process relies on 3D printing technology.
“We are structured to serve our customers in the best conditions of quality, time and order tracking,” said Guillaume Felten, President of Surdifuse-L’Embout, on the merger. “Cross cutting exchanges of good practices, methods, management tools and the complementary of production sites will allow us to gain considerable time to achieve this goal. This is the meaning of this rapprochement.”
Now Prodways, which has made a habit of acquiring other companies over the past couple of years, has acquired Surdifuse-L’Embout Francais and will guide the young company as it works to strengthen its service offering and customer proximity. For Prodways, the acquisition will form part of its vertical integration strategy and will serve as a vehicle to accelerate the launch of new 3D printed products.
The purchase of the French company has gained Prodways 40 new employees, spread across two sites in Paris and Lyon. Prodways is also expecting the acquisition to generate more than €3 million in revenue. Furthermore, Surdifuse-L’Embout Francais’ expertise in hearing aids will allow Prodways to be a part of an expanding industry. Surdifuse-L’Embout Francais has become one of the leading manufacturers in hearing aids in France and Europe, and the hearing aid industry itself is thriving thanks in part to its embrace of new technology. Prodways, which is known itself for its own patented MovingLight 3D printing technology, is a savvy company that knows where to find successful business areas, and its acquisition of Surdifuse-L’Embout Francais reflects that.
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