When we talk about 3D printing-related innovation, we usually talk about the big things – prosthetics, rockets, buildings, etc. We rarely think about the small things, but it’s those small innovations that often end up making big impacts on our everyday lives. For example, cable ties. I have a love-hate relationship with them. Those little plastic strips are great for closing bags and boxes or otherwise securing items, but when you want to open said boxes or release said items, it can turn into a bloody battle. Literally – I’ve shed blood more than once trying to wrench a cable tie, particularly the toothy kind, open when scissors or knives weren’t handy. Even scissors don’t always do the trick; some of those thicker ties need an actual saw to cut through them.
I’ve moved a lot, so I’ve used a lot of cable ties in the last several years, but I first encountered them as a small child trying to figure out how on earth I was supposed to get my new My Little Pony out of its box when it was strapped down with about a dozen industrial strength cable ties. It didn’t help that I was only allowed access to safety scissors at the time. I think I got so frustrated that I actually tried to chew through one of the ties, which didn’t work but may have boosted the amount of money my parents had to pay in orthodontia bills a few years later. So, yes, I would consider cable ties to be a lifelong nemesis, which is why the designers and engineers at Marbles LLC are my new heroes.
Marbles, a research and design firm based in Bonita Springs, Florida, specializes in redesigning common, everyday products to make them more ergonomic. One of those everyday products is, yes, the cable tie. Founder and managing partner Will Scott and industrial designer Gihoon Song designed the ties with a simple yet valuable twist – they are releasable. They still provide a strong, secure hold, but when you’re ready to remove them, there’s no need for bloodshed.
“This will change the industry,” Scott said. “We expect to get hundreds of millions of dollars of return on this.”
To produce the ties, Marbles is partnering with Micro Plastics, Inc, an Arkansas-based injection molding manufacturer. According to Micro Plastics owner Tom Hall, the development of the cable ties required hundreds of hours and multiple prototypes before the design was perfected. 3D printing was instrumental in the design and production of the new product, which will cost about the same as your old-fashioned, deadly cable ties – a package of them will cost about 99 cents at the dollar store. They are expected to be available at hardware and department stores, as well as online retailers, in January or February.
Marbles has only been in operation for two years, but they’ve developed several other products that will make everyday life easier, like secure plastic locks for document boxes and better box handles – no more dropping 20-pound boxes on your feet! I’m most excited about their cable ties, however – if they catch on, they could save the next generation a lot of scars and medical bills. Discuss these designs in the 3D Printed Cable Tie Forum thread on 3DPB.com.