BMW workers give thumbs up to 3D printed glove

BMW is providing factory workers at its Munich plant with customised 3D printed gloves to help reduce the stress on joints brought on by repetitive tasks.

Workers tasked with fitting rubber plugs are trialling flexible "finger cots" which are made in-house. These fit over thumbs like a second skin and allow the joints to move freely, according to BMW.

When the thumb is placed in a like' gesture, the cot forms a splint, so when force applied to push a plug into place, it is spread across the entire thumb.

BMW claims that feedback from workers has been very positive and is evaluating how it can implement the cots to other works in the assembly plant.

How they are made

Each worker is provided with a custom-made finger cot. This requires them to have their thumb measured with a mobile 3D hand scanner.

A computer model is generated and a CO2 laser is used to build the mitt layer-by-layer.

BMW uses thermoplastic polyurethane, which the manufacturer claims is perfect for making this accessory, because it is strong and resistant to tearing.

The car manufacturer has worked in conjunction with the Department of Ergonomics at the Technical University of Munich on this project, and this is part of its initiative to make production more ergonomic.

This isn't the first time BMW has also made customised attachments. The firm created tailor-made wheelchair seats for the British basketball team competing in the 2012 Paralympics. These were designed to give the athletes an advantage as they were individually fitted and lighter than standard seats.

Khidr Suleman is the Technical Editor at IT Pro, a role he has fulfilled since March 2012. He is responsible for the reviews section on the site  - so get in touch if you have a product you think might be of interest to the business world. He also covers the hardware and operating systems beats. Prior to joining IT Pro, Khidr worked as a reporter at Incisive Media. He studied law at the University of Reading and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism and Online Writing at PMA Training.