BMW, one of the biggest car manufacturers in Europe has turned to 3D printing to empower their workers with stronger and augmented thumbs. This German car manufacturing company has pledged to take care of their workers who work in the assembly areas where they have to fit rubber plugs into drain holes to seal them during the painting process. In order to do this they have to use their thumbs so that the plug fits in correctly in the hole. The company’s representative says, “Even for people with strong hand muscles, this movement requires a certain effort.”
To restrain the workers from straining their thumb muscle, an orthotic device was designed that would work as a second skin for the workers. This 3D printed apparel acts like a support bracket for the workers’ thumb which in turn reduces strain and helps the workers to fit the part correctly in a much easier way. The guard is open at the front and is later split into three sections. These sections are reinforced at the rear so that there is a free movement of the thumb. These thumbs are highly customized and have been made after measuring the workers’ hand in a mobile scanner.
The thumb has been tested in the Munich factory of BMW and this unique device was created by BMW in partnership with the Department of Ergonomics at the Technical University of Munich. BMW also says that this technology was given to the workers as an effort on behalf of the company to offer best possible support for the workers.
Image Credit: BMW Press Release