Additive Manufacturing Strategies

BASF’s Replique and Miele Partner for 3D Printed Spare Parts & Accessories

ST Medical Devices

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BASF’s Replique is a service that partners 3D printing services with clients for the making of 3D printed spare parts. The service just announced that it is to partner with Miele. Trusted white goods company Miele is a premium brand for ovens, washing machines, refrigerators, hobs, and much else besides.

As Miele is one of the most respected and trusted companies in the space, this partnership is a real coup for BASF. This is all the more so because, for years, the EU has been funding many projects related to 3D printing spare parts. This is a real, live example of the EU’s dream of introducing sustainability to the region through Industry 4.0 and digital manufacturing.

Replique has implemented good manufacturing practices (GMP) for its 3D printed parts, which means that, together with certified materials, the company can assure food contact suitability for its polymer components. Moreover, the firm is able to use those standards across its production network. Now, you can order parts directly from Miele’s online shop and get them 3D printed in a decentralized fashion and delivered to you. Accessories are printed to order, which should reduce the stock needed and capital expended to keep spare parts. Replique’s solution can be integrated into existing e-commerce solutions and deployed worldwide.

This project flows from Miele’s earlier 3D4U project, which allowed Miele product users to download and print their own accessories. Now, you can buy a coffee clip, a borehole cleaner, and a “valuable separator” from the firm, 3D printed in PETG by Replique using material extrusion technology. These new tools expand appliance capabilities, such as providing the ideal suction for a vacuum cleaner to collect dust after you’ve drill holes. Another is a coffee clip that helps you keep your coffee fresh.

“So far, competing companies have only offered fragmented solutions. Replique is the only partner who has in-depth knowledge of the entire process and the right network to offer a turnkey solution. Their business model is scalable and we expect to expand our business in Germany, Europe or even worldwide in a short period of time,” stated David Buhl, Manager Innovation Management Miele Room Care at Miele.

“Certifying processes in 3D printing is a complex topic that has yet to be really considered in the field of food approval. Working together with our partner Forward AM we are the first 3D printing solutions provider to implement a 3D printing process according to GMP and can therefore guarantee high process reliability,” said Replique co-founder Dr. Max Siebert.

Though the concept has been around for some time, many companies have worried about the scalability, safety, and reliability of 3D printing spare parts. Through certification and the backing by chemical giant BASF, Replique has been able to make Miele feel secure about all of these concerns.

This is significant because Miele may not make the washing machine that you can afford but it does make the one you want. The company is a $4.5 billion revenue firm that is family owned and cares a lot about quality and the longevity of its products. I’ve heard all manner of excuses from firms about why they don’t want to 3D print spare parts. Miele’s involvement should go far in abating these concerns. It is also interesting that Miele is starting not with straight-up replacement goods, but with value-added accessories.

Companies have thus far focused on replacement items. They’ve had to invest in molds for these components and keep them for many years. Often production runs of spares have to be kept in warehouses for many years, as well. But, Miele has quietly entered a new business.

The automotive aftermarket is worth tens of billions of dollars worldwide. It not only provides for direct replacement parts but also for improved components, styling goods or radical departures that can change the functionality of your car or make it look radically different. I talk about the aftermarket for everything here. In essence, we could all be producing readymades and extending the lives of objects that surround us. We could also engage in digital kintsugi ourselves. It seems that Miele is thinking along the same path. The German giant wants to give us not only straight-up replacements, but new and improved items as well.

Through digital inventory, many iterations, and quick designs with 3D printing, Miele could very quickly produce many different, niche goods that extend the functionality of its devices. Niche use cases or novel problems could be dealt with through a value-added accessory that may only appeal to 1,000 people worldwide, but would be super valuable to those people.

Think of all manner of grips to make certain appliances more kid-friendly, more kid-safe or more ergonomic for adults with small hands. Think about left-handed accessories that render your vacuum cleaner more comfortable or an attachment for short people to use vacuums. Maybe we could have vacuum cleaner attachments for use beneath car seats or small pointy ones for the deep, dark recesses of couches. Parkinson’s sufferers or people with limited mobility could have specific attachments made for them, as well. But, we could also make flamboyant, glow-in-the-dark purple handles for things so they integrate better into your furnishings or sense of style.

Rather than just replace, we could improve, extend and increase the affect of these objects. We could also couple this with mass customization to allow people to personalize the look and feel of their old and new devices. I think that this is a fantastic move for both Miele and BASF. Now, no company has an excuse to not at least try 3D printing spare parts.

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