Cochlear implant is an electronic medical device implanted through surgery. After decades of experience, the electronic device has reconstructed or restored hearing for 700000 people. However, more than 460 million people worldwide suffer from hearing impairment, and more than 60000 cochlear implant devices are sold each year. Because the microelectrode array of cochlear implants is artificially manufactured and implanted, the cost of a single cochlear implant can be as high as $20000 to $25000.
Working principle of cochlear implant system: The cochlear implant can replace the damaged auditory organs, and the external speech processor converts sound into a certain encoded form of electrical signals into the cochlea of the human body. The electrode system implanted in the body stimulates the surrounding auditory nerve fibers, directly stimulating the auditory nerve to restore or reconstruct auditory function.
TODOC develops cochlear electrode arrays using picosecond devices
TODOC is a Korean start-up company that aims to address the global shortage of artificial electronic cochlear implants. The company uses the ultrashort pulse laser system LPKF ProtoLaser R to develop a manufacturable cochlear electrode array.
A traditional cochlear electrode array consists of 16 to 22 platinum foil based electrode contacts and wires encapsulated in medical grade silicone. The dimensions range from 0.4 mm to 0.8 mm in diameter and 20 mm in length. The standards established 20 years ago specify the above number of electrodes and wires.
Since then, many people have tried to manufacture cochlear electrode arrays using semiconductor manufacturing processes. Unfortunately, substrates and processes suitable for semiconductor processes are not biocompatible.
Implementation of a 32 channel cochlear implant system using a picosecond laser processing system
TODOC was founded in 2015 and began using LPKF ProtoLaser U3 in 2016. In 2018, it began using the short pulse laser system LPKF ProtoLaser R to fabricate microstructures on platinum foil. With the help of the LPKF fine processing laser system, TODOC has successfully fabricated 32 channels on these biocompatible alloys, and has achieved maximum production automation. In this way, 32 channels can be produced in one process. To this end, Kyou Sik Min, CEO and founder of TODOC, and his colleagues drew a line width of 16 on platinum foil μ M. Line width spacing is 32 μ M graphics, and integrated 32 channel contacts and wiring in one process, rather than manually making 22 channel electrodes. The final electrode array is implemented after several steps of encapsulating contacts and wires. Through this production process, TODOC produced the first commercially viable cochlear electrode array in history.
In 2021, TODOC launched the first 32 channel cochlear implant system in the Korean market, and plans to expand its sales network worldwide. Due to insufficient supply of cochlear implants on the market, they are unable to restore hearing. The ideal of TODOC is to help people with hearing disabilities around the world hear the world again without worrying about costs.
The LPKF ProtoLaser system is used for rapid production of sample PCBs. The intelligent software equipped with the system can be processed accurately and quickly, and is easy to use. The laser system has a compact structure and simple environmental requirements, requiring only a power outlet and compressed air to start working. The laser direct writing process can also be used to produce various directions and materials such as radio frequency and microwave circuits, flexible electronic products, and glass.