Advanced hearing aids with Audio ASIC
Adopting ASIC technology manufacturing costs is reduced by a factor of two
Technologies used

 Mixed signal ASIC

Industrial sector (PRODCOM code)
    331 Medical and surgical equipment and orthopaedic appliances
Comfort Audio AB is a young high-tech company that produces technically advanced hearing aids for conferences, meetings and educational situations.
Comfort Audio came to the conclusion that the development of the new product was important to stay competitive in the next years to come. The company had to improve profitability by lower manufacturing costs. Another important key factor was to enhance the product in terms of audio quality, reliability, size and weight. This had to be done without increasing the consumer price.
Today three different types of hearing aids are produced using five totally different control electronic boards. Each hearing aid is composed of four PCBs. The control-electronics is based on analogue components mounted on PCB. The number of PCBs has been reduced, through the use of a full custom analogue ASIC, to just one multi-purpose PCB. This board mounting the ASIC is actually used in all Company products, and it will be used in a new automatic mixer microphone system as well.

The ASIC Comfort1 is an audio circuit incorporating: a microphone amplifier, two audio mixers, an automatic gain control, a squelch function, a current controlled second order high pass filter, a current controlled first order low pass filter, a reference voltage block and battery control for low battery level and for total discharged batteries.
The audio quality is improved in the aspects of noise and distortion. The accuracy of the product is also improved. The volume of the product is reduced from 1228cm3 to 217cm3 and the weight of the product is reduced from 1100g to 245g. The power consumption is reduced by 42%. Manufacturing cost is reduced 38-64% depending on the product.
The total costs of the project, including the AE, DSP software development and manufacturing of tools for moulding plastic is about 200 KECU where the cost up to the prototype stage is 96 KECU. The AE is already implemented in two different products that are sold on the market. The payback period is within one year. The return on investment over product lifetime will be 10 folds the initial investment.
The circuit is produced using an S-16 bipolar analogy array from Svenska Grindmatriser AB (SGA). The array consist of 163 bipolar transistors, 490 thin film resistors and 46 bond pads with a chip size of 4.62 x 3.16 mm. For production parts and prototypes, the circuit is packaged in a standard 44 terminal plastic 44L MQFP.
The start date of the AE was 1 January 1997 and the end date was 30 June 1998.
Comfort Audio AB

Detailed information

You can also benefit from microelectronics

Mixed signal ASIC technology provided Comfort Audio AB with the means of improving its products and enhancing its market position. You can also achieve significant benefits by acquiring the right microelectronics technology and utilising it in your product or manufacturing process. You can get help from FUSE to realise this.

FUSE is a technology transfer programme, funded by the European Commission to stimulate the wider use of microelectronics technologies by European enterprises to increase their competitiveness and enhance their economic growth. The demonstrator described here is one of many examples in the public FUSE portfolio covering the whole spectrum of microelectronics technologies and spanning a wide range of applications and industry sectors.

FUSE provides you with:

  • Best practice in acquiring specific microelectronics technologies and conducting full development projects through the FUSE portfolio of real life demonstrator documents.
  • Local training and expert support to plan your innovation realistically and help you conduct your project successfully.

Further information and support relating to this and other demonstrators can be obtained from the addresses below.

Further information   Guiding Technology Transfer Node
For further information and support regarding this case study, please contact a Technology Transfer Node (TTN) in your region.
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