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CAD: Inventions Become Reality

How CAD Facilitated a New Device for the Deaf
 
Cochlear, a Swedish hearing implant manufacturer, successfully used Autodesk Inventor software to develop a digital prototype of the Baha bone conduction hearing solution (www.cochlear.com). The Baha system uses direct bone conduction to transfer sound to the cochlea, the auditory center of the inner ear.  This method has the advantage of bypassing the outer and middle ear -- which might be blocked, damaged or otherwise impaired -- when transmitting sound vibrations to the inner ear.  As a result, individuals with hearing loss can experience clearer sound in everyday situations like phone calls and group meetings.
 
This engineering feat was made possible by using Inventor software from Autodesk, i.e. Digital Prototyping software.  A digital prototype is a realistic 3D digital simulation of the entire end product that is used to design, visualize and simulate a product before it is built, reducing the necessity of constructing physical prototypes.
 
Precise Digital Prototyping: How Cochlear Did It
 
"To design the bone conduction implant and the external sound processor that constitute the Baha system, we need to be able to precisely design, engineer and manufacture parts on the scale of one hundred-thousandths of a millimeter," said Daniel Radberg, senior design engineer and CAD manager at Cochlear BAS. "Autodesk Inventor is invaluable in helping us achieve that precision by giving us detailed 3D views of our products before we've built anything."
 
Traditional hearing aids use air conduction to transmit sound through the ear canal.  However, people with a damaged middle ear cannot benefit from this type of device. The Baha system, by contrast, uses a titanium implant in the skull bone behind the ear.  An external sound processor snaps onto the implant, transmitting sound vibrations from the outside world directly to the cochlea, bypassing damaged or problematic areas.
 
This direct transmission route provides several important advantages when it comes to sound quality. While conventional hearing aids over-amplify sounds to compensate for the damaged or blocked area, the Baha re-routes the sound naturally, thereby eliminating the annoying feedback and occlusion often associated with traditional air conduction hearing aids.
 
CAD makes the designer's job quicker and faster, which allows the end product to get into production sooner. This is important to consumers who are patiently waiting for modern gadgets that can drastically improve their quality of life, such as devices for the deaf and hard of hearing.

By Rita Henry
Get CAD Jobs, Contributing Editor

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