The use of 3D printing has increased significantly over the past few years. It has found its use in industries like fashion, medical, construction and many more. Now BMW, the German car manufacturer has made use of this technology to reduce strain for the car-plant workers. 3D printed thumbs have been created for the workers which will acts as support brackets and help in reducing the strain on their joints while they are bringing the car parts together.
3D Printed Super-Thumbs
A portable 3D camera is used for capturing the right measure of each worker’s hand. This scan helps in creating a bespoke thumb protector for each of them, which is made of thermoplastic polyurethane. The semi flexible plastic is a hybrid of soft silicone and hard plastic and created by selective laser printing, which is a 3D printing method.
Plastic powder is fused with the help of a laser to create the full 3D structure layer by layer. The workers can move their thumbs without any restrain as the 3D printed thumb fits like a second skin. But when the thumb is straightened, the pieces lock into place and become rigid. Strain is resisted by the locked splint and the load of pushing something is spread throughout the thumb. This puts very little strain on the joints of the workers, even if they are a pushing a stiff rubber plug into the car’s chassis holes.
Trials of the 3D printed Thumbs
Testing of these 3D printed thumbs has been carried out in BMW’s factory in Munich. The Department of Ergonomics at the Technical University of Munich has partnered with the company for carrying out the trials. After getting positive feedback from the workers in the plant, the company is now planning to roll out the 3D printed thumbs in the market so that injury can be prevented and production gets a boost.
BMW using 3D printing for last 25 years
This is not a new 3D printing initiative taken by this car manufacturer. This technology has been used for creating prototypes of cars and car parts for the last 25 years. Different techniques are used by BMW to create around 100,000 pieces in a year at the Rapid Technology Centre in Munich.
What do you think?
Do you think this initiative will help the workers to easily assemble the cars in factories? What other applications of 3D printing do you find useful? Share your insights in the comments below.
Image Source – www.bbc.com