July 3, 2014

The use of 3D scanning and 3D printing has grown rapidly in the automotive industry. The latest news is from BMW. In order to provide the best-possible support to the workers in production and in support areas, BMW Group has introduced a 3D printed flexible finger cot, which protects workers against excess strains on the thumb joints while carrying out certain assembly activities.

In cooperation with the Department of Ergonomics at the Technical University of Munich, BMW fabricates these orthotic devices in-house using 3D printing. Each of the flexible assembly aids is a unique piece, customized to the match the form and size of a worker's hand.

The orthotic devices are applied in an assembly area where rubber plugs are fitted. These have to be pressed in with the thumb and close, among other things, the drain holes for the paint coat. Even for people with strong hand muscles, this movement requires a certain effort.

In order to prevent the unnecessary overstretching of the thumb joint, the company developed the finger cots made of thermoplastic polyurethane which are put over the thumb like a second skin.

Thermoplastic polyurethane is perfectly suited to making flexible orthotic devices. As a rule, it is elastic, but forms solid and rigid combinations at higher material strengths. The mechanical tensile strength is high, ensuring that the material can resist also strong, continuous strains without tearing.

Right at the thumb joints, the assembly aid is open to allow the thumb to move without restriction. At the back of the thumb, though, the plastic material is reinforced. If the thumb is stretched, as in a 'like it' gesture, the reinforced elements collide, forming a stable splint. This way, the effort needed to press in the plug is spread across the entire thumb, down to the carpus.

Each of these finger cots is made specifically for its user. The worker's thumb is first measured with a mobile 3D hand scanner. The 3D model is then divided virtually into individual layers, each of them about as thick as a human hair. Based on the data, a plastic powder is selectively fused by a CO2 laser in a pre-heated construction chamber.

According to BMW, in initial practical tests, the feedback of workers was very positive. BMW is currently evaluating how the assembly aids can be applied as standard tools in further production areas.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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Robert W. Thrush Jr. wrote at 2/15/2015 4:38:45 PM:

This is wonderful. It love how BMW is worker friendly and supports their employees with innovative ways of protection. 3D'Printing is here and here to stay. Internationally renounced car collector Jay Leno is said up employ 3D'Printing for manufacturing unavailable and impossible to find parts for restoring many of his rear automobiles. I foresee BMW at the head of 3D/manufacturing automobiles to each customers very own design and options list... Can you believe one day soon getting on your smartphone or home computer, going to the BMW website, checking all the appropriate boxes for the options you want, then make custom body changes to your liking, via wire transfer of the cash paying in advance and have your very own dream car delivered to your front house door in a matter of a couple weeks?! It's very near folks. Now that's INNOVATION and closer than you may think!

3dfilamenta.com wrote at 7/3/2014 2:00:23 PM:

this is really good, as I self have worked in an assembling area, hands is getting numb after many hours of assembling. Any aid is alwasy a big plus!



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