Replique, a spin-off from BASF, is collaborating with wheelchair manufacturer RehaMedPower to employ HP’s Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) technology for personalizing components of a new electric wheelchair, the RP1. Specializing in maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) via 3D printing, Replique acts as an intermediary that ensures the accurate conversion, storage, and printing of design files. The company’s expertise lies not only in updating old files for 3D printing but also in contributing to new design creations. In this specific venture, both RehaMedPower and Replique analyzed the RP1’s designs to identify areas where 3D printing could offer a cost-effective solution.
The company now utilizes 3D printing to produce between 19 and 23 parts made of PA 12 MFP for each wheelchair, including components like headrest covers and footrests. By doing so, manufacturing time has been reduced by 30%. This approach also allows for a broader selection of colors for various components. Additionally, virtual warehousing will be used to maintain an inventory of 3D-printed spare parts.
“With 3D-printed prototypes we were able to reduce our development time significantly. When it comes to serial production in our industry, teaming up with Replique also offers some crucial benefits, such as flexibility in demand planning with production on-demand and the ability to implement changes rapidly and offer special parts to meet the individual needs,” said Thyl Junker, Head of Development at RehaMedPower.
“Our collaboration with RehaMedPower shows, that 3D printing offers so much more than just efficient prototyping. It enables companies to deliver highly customer-centric solutions while remaining cost-effective and flexible in serial production thanks to our digital warehouse solution. We are looking forward to simplifying the life of RehaMedPower and most importantly, their valued patients,” said Mark Winker, Technical Sales Manager at Replique.
This development is an exciting example of how a relatively small firm can leverage 3D printing to save on expenses and expedite product development. Instead of having to purchase expensive machines or acquire specialized expertise, companies can now simply rely on Replique. This not only speeds up the adoption of additive manufacturing but also amplifies its impact across the entire industry. With minimal upfront investment, it’s now easier than ever to get started with 3D printing.
At the moment, the direct impact on the end user is fairly limited. However, the potential for greater influence is clear, especially in the field of assistive devices—a sector I view as particularly promising for high-impact 3D printing applications. I’m a strong advocate for collaborative and open-source assistive devices. Imagine, for instance, if Replique created a library of customizable assistive devices compatible with a wide range of wheelchairs. The possibilities are both intriguing and far-reaching.
Imagine a scenario where the company creates custom holders for every type of cell phone, or designs tailored cup and water bottle holders. The scope for customization is vast, given that each individual has unique needs, varying lifestyles, and different disabilities. Consider the day-to-day challenge of navigating a wheelchair over uneven terrain while trying to carry a Starbucks cup; the potential for increased comfort and functionality through custom devices is enormous. This could also become a revenue stream for assistive device companies, simultaneously enhancing customer loyalty and satisfaction.
I believe the future lies in these kinds of limited-production, high-impact components. When paired with services that proactively secure business and facilitate customer integration into the 3D printing ecosystem, the growth potential is significant. While breaking into markets like automotive manufacturing is worthwhile, smaller but highly lucrative opportunities are abundant. These niches are ideally suited for 3D printing’s capabilities to produce low-volume, highly specific parts efficiently.
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