BMW has long recognized that the people in its workforce are key to efficient production. As such, they have undertaken a number of efforts to create the best possible supports for their employees. The Munich BMW Vehicle Assembly plant workers are getting bespoke thumb splints, created with additive manufacturing techniques, in order to reduce the stress placed on their joints while carrying out assembly processes. These personal orthotic devices are created individually by scanning each recipient’s hand in a mobile hand scanner.
Over time, normal assembly line tasks can cause strain on the thumb joints. This is especially true when the motion performed requires pressure and strength to complete. One such exampled would be the act of pressing rubber stoppers into car body parts, to cover the holes created to drain paint away during coating. This orthotic is designed to be flexible when bending forward and does not inhibit the thumb’s normal bending motion. However, once the thumb has been extended (into a thumbs up type position) plastic reinforcers on the back of the device lock together to prevent the thumb joint from bending backwards. In this way, the thumb cot works to distribute applied force down the entire length of the thumb to the carpus. This relieves the joint from carrying the entire burden of the activity and should help to prevent stress related and repetitive motion injuries.
The devices are created using thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), a hybrid material mixture of hard plastic and soft silicone, with a proven record of successful application in orthotics. BMW produces these devices in-house, using selective laser sintering to build them up layer by layer. The long-term goal of BMW is to discover ways to make appropriate assembly aids for their workers, as a standard aspect of their plants’ production procedures. Currently, they are gathering feedback from the group of workers using the splint and report that they have received very positive feedback.
This is also not BMW’s first foray into additive production processes. They have been harnessing the benefits of processes such as stereo-lithography, polyjet printing, fused deposition molding, and stream smelting since 1989 for both rapid and concept prototyping. Approximately 100,000 pieces per year are created using these methods at The Rapid Technologies Center, which is part of their larger Research and Innovation Center in Munich.
The creation of these thumb cots is part of a dissertation being supervised in the Department of Ergonomics at the Technical University of Munich, and is being evaluated as part of BMW’s Industry 4.0 plan.
Discuss the use of 3D printing to make these very unique thumb cots in the BMW 3D Printed Thumb Cot forum thread on 3DPB.com
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Stay up-to-date on all the latest news from the 3D printing industry and receive information and offers from third party vendors.
You May Also Like
TPM Launches New 3D Printing Lab in the Heart of the Southeast’s Advanced Manufacturing Hub
On June 1, TPM, a digitization solutions company based in Greenville, South Carolina, opened its new Additive Manufacturing (AM) Lab, also in Greenville. TPM sells hardware, software, and materials for...
3D Printing Webinar & Event Roundup: June 4, 2023
In this week’s roundup, Stratasys has a few stops on its road trip, and TCT 3Sixty is taking place in Birmingham. There are also webinars about automotive 3D printing, electron...
3D Systems Confirms Bid to Buy Stratasys to Create $1.84B 3D Printing Company
See the update at end of this article. In what has to be one of the 3D printing industry’s biggest news weeks, additive manufacturing (AM) pioneer 3D Systems (NYSE: DDD)...
3D Printing News Unpeeled: Stratasys, Nano Dimension and 3D Systems
Today we’re talking about all the merger options on offer between Desktop Metal, Stratasys, Nano Dimension and 3D Systems. It seems like most people in this industry are publicly saying...
Upload your 3D Models and get them printed quickly and efficiently.