A novel idea to reduce stress in workers’ joints is being tried out at a BMW production plant in Germany.
The Munich factory has given out 3D printed thumbs to workers, for them to use while they are putting together car parts.
These so-called super-thumbs are more correctly known as thermoplastic polyurethane thumb protectors. They are made to size for each BMW worker by using a mobile scanning device to measure their hands.
The thumb protector is then printed off using a 3D printer and fits snugly over the worker’s real thumb like a second skin.
Becomes Rigid When Straightened
The person can still move their thumb freely but the protector becomes rigid when they straighten their thumb. This allows them to press down strongly without putting a lot of strain on their thumb joint.
The work on producing these super-thumbs was spearheaded in the BMW factory in Munich together with the Department of Ergonomics in the Technical University of Munich. The part of the car production factory where they are being used is the section where rubber plugs are fitted to the engines.
As part of the process for fitting these rubber plugs to the engines they have to be pressed down firmly with the thumb. A BMW spokesman confirmed that even a person with strong hand muscles has to make a “certain effort” to do this. The idea is part of any overall scheme to improve conditions for the workers in the factory.
Could you use the help of a 3D printed body part in your job?
image courtesy of The Independent