Cool Idea! Award Grant Helps Push Automated Ear-Care Device toward Commercialization

Protolabs’ Cool Idea! Award helps SafKan in meeting customization requirements during beta program stage.

Protolabs’ Cool Idea! Award helps SafKan in meeting customization requirements during beta program stage.

Image courtesy of Protolabs.

Tucson-based startup, SafKan, the latest Protolabs Cool Idea! Award winner, is introducing a pair of headphones that can professionally clean a patient’s ear in just 35 seconds, the startup reports. Responding to a market opportunity, SafKan developed an automated ear cleaning device for clinical use, OtoSet.

The headphones have disposable silicone nozzles that spray a warm saline solution against the walls of the ear canal while extracting the solution and wax back into the nozzles and disposable outflow containers. Long term, SafKan plans to roll out a consumer version of the device but for now OtoSet is to be administered by health care providers.

“It’s pretty easy to design headphones on your computer and 3D print it,” says 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.”

Since completing two clinical trials, OtoSet is slated to be introduced in a beta program in several cities including Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Tucson, Houston and Philadelphia. With funding from the Cool Idea! Award, SafKan has developed industrial-grade prototypes that are now being tested by more than 50 physicians across the country.

Co-founded by brothers Sahil and Aadil Diwan, OtoSet went through several iterations, made possible by the team at Protolabs. SafKan relied on the grant to remove the financial burden from clinical trials to quickly place working prototypes in the hands of physicians.

“Without this grant, it would take more time,” says Sahil. “This allows us to build these devices, have them be the real deal, and get them to physicians quickly.”

The Diwan brothers leaned on Protolabs’ Polyjet 3D printing and CNC machining capabilities, using 14 unique parts from the digital manufacturer. Once made, the parts for multiple devices were shipped to Tucson, AZ, where they are assembled and tested by SafKan.

“One of the largest segments we serve as a digital manufacturing company is the medical and health care industry,” says 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.”

In the future, SafKan plans to make the product available to consumers.

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