The Cool Idea! Awards program initiated by digital manufacturing company Protolabs (Maple Plain, MN) has helped fund the development of some, well, cool stuff. Past projects have included a water management system that uses the Internet of things to optimize irrigation and a Zen garden–inspired art table that produces sand designs beneath a glass tabletop. The latest recipient of a grant has broader demographic applications: It’s a pair of headphones that can professionally remove earwax from a patient’s ear in a matter of seconds.
The OtoSet device, invented by Tucson-based startup SafKan, is equipped with 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, avoiding messy spills. It’s a welcome technological leap from the more than a century-old Ear and Bladder Syringe that is still commonly used to remove earwax.
The OtoSet has completed two clinical trials, and 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. The long-term goal of the company is to introduce a consumer version of the device.
Co-founded by brothers Sahil and Aadil Diwan, SafKan took the OtoSet through several iterations that were 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,” said Sahil. “This allows us to build these devices, have them be the real deal, and get them to physicians quickly.”
The brothers relied on Protolabs’ expertise in Polyjet 3D printing and CNC machining to produce 14 unique parts, which were shipped to Tucson, where they are assembled and tested by SafKan.
"One of the largest segments we serve as a digital manufacturing company is the medical and healthcare 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."
The Protolabs panel of judges distribute up to $250,000 in manufacturing services to worthy inventors and entrepreneurs each year. Thus far, program has awarded more than $1 million in manufacturing services.
Got a cool idea? Here’s how to submit it for consideration for a grant.