SafKan, a Tucson-based startup, has developed an innovative pair of 3D printed headphones—only they’re not for listening to music. The company, which was awarded Protolabs Cool Idea! award for its concept, has created a pair of medical headphones which can professionally clean a person’s ear in just 35 seconds.
If you’ve ever been to the doctor with an earache or sinus infection, you may have had the misfortune of facing the “Ear & Bladder Syringe,” a device that looks like it’s from the 1800s because, well, it is. The instrument, the predominant ear cleaning device since 1821, could soon be replaced by something much more high tech, the OtoSet.
Developed by SafKan with the help of 3D printing, the OtoSet is capable of professionally cleaning a patient’s ears and removing wax buildup in under a minute. The device, which from afar looks like a set of construction headphones, integrates disposable silicone nozzles which spray a warm saline solution against the walls of the ear canal while simultaneously extracting the solution and wax into disposable outflow containers.
3D printing expert Protolabs got wind of SafKan’s innovative ear-cleaning solution and awarded the company its Cool Idea! award. Along with the accolade, SafKan received funding which enabled it to manufacture industrial-grade OtoSet prototypes which are now being tested by over 50 physicians across the United States. The device itself is made up of 14 components produced using Protolabs’ Polyjet 3D printing and CNC machining.
“It’s pretty easy to design headphones on your computer and 3D print it,” said SafKan co-founder Sahil Diwan. “But then you need to take that to the next level and start to commercialize it. Protolabs has been really helpful with our engineering team, using experience that we don’t have in-house to get our device ready to go to market.”
Founded by brothers Sahil and Aadil Diwan, SafKan has tapped into a market gap. In fact, their device is the first and only automated ear-wax removal headphone device. 3D printing and Protolabs’ expertise enabled the brothers to produce several iterations of the OtoSet. The current version has already undergone two successful clinical trials, and SafKan is preparing to launch a beta program in cities across the U.S. Down the line, the startup even plans to develop a consumer version of the device.
“One of the largest segments we serve as a digital manufacturing company is the medical and health care industry,” said Protolabs President and CEO, Vicki Holt. “So when the opportunity comes to support amazing products like OtoSet—devices that are solving real problems for its users—I’m more than thrilled with the fact that we can provide a manufacturing grant to do that.”