German appliance manufacturer Miele are offering CAD files for the 3D printing of extra components for their own range of appliances.
According to Miele’s website they are “the first domestic appliance manufacturer in the world to offer a wider range of 3D printable accessories.”
Is that true? Kinda. It depends how you look at it. Do they mean printable or printed? And wider than what exactly?
Let’s take a look at the parts on offer before we deconstruct the claim in that quote and see how true it is.
There are 10 part files available to download, most of them designed to be used as attachments for Miele’s vacuum cleaners. The components, which have all been uploaded to Miele’s 3D4U page on Thingiverse, are as follows:
- Valuables Separator – this is a vacuum attachment that stops you from sucking up jewels and things when you vacuum your jewellery draw.
- Coffee Clip — this item helps seal up a coffee bag so you don’t get grounds in your drink while steeping the brew (actually useful).
- Twin Adapter — The twin adapter allows two vacuum heads to be used simultaneously for some reason.
- Borehole Cleaning Aid — This device fits to the vacuum and removes debris while drilling holes with a power drill.
- Motif Dispenser — this dispenses a motif onto your coffee. There is a template file for you to modify your design in addition to the file for the dispenser itself.
- Micro Handle — a small nozzle for the vacuum.
- Flexi Nozzle — This is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a flexible nozzle for your vacuum.
- Bubble Attachment — Yes, this is a real thing. It blows bubbles.
- Mono Bracket — There is a picture of this below. Apparently, this component allows the user to attach another accessory to your vacuum cleaner “within easy reach”.
You may have noticed a common theme in those items. Most of them are probably not the kind of thing you would spend money on. Not being able to reach a vacuum attachment in a hurry likely isn’t a real problem that needed addressing.
These items are what you would probably call value-added products. They add value to your existing products and also to the company itself. And they utilized existing resources to create this project (and even used Thingiverse rather than designing their own CAD repository). So it’s a fun thing for everyone that probably didn’t cost a lot to implement, and it’s probably good for marketing as well.
Spin or Win?
Back to the claim that they are “the first domestic appliance manufacturer in the world to offer a wider range of 3D printable accessories.”
Even a decade ago, visionaries online were speculating about how one day we will see entire appliance manufacturers’ spare parts inventories transferred onto a database. 3D printed spares, we were assured, would be sent as data into people’s homes where they could simply fabricate washing machine parts on demand.
Well, the idea didn’t die. Whirlpool were still working on this idea as late as 2018 with a Singaporean 3D printing company called Spare Parts 3D.
Whirlpool allowed Spare Parts 3D to perform a catalogue analysis using Spare Parts 3D’s proprietary Digipart software.
Over 11 000 SKUs were reviewed automatically by the software and 7% of the SKUs were found out to be at risk of obsolescence or shortage, and were found to be profitable if they were switched to additive manufacturing. The next stage for Whirlpool and company is to digitize a larger pool of parts.
According to Spare Parts 3D’s website, some of these parts had “already been produced on demand and delivered to customers.”
So with that in mind, we can say that Miele certainly aren’t the first appliance manufacturer to offer 3D printed accessories. Whirlpool has been doing it for at least 2 years.
But therein lies the difference.
Whirlpool have looked at it from a logistical and economic standpoint and are retaining their IP and files, printing their own on-demand parts on site and then shipping them to the customer nearby. Whirlpool do not want to give up on that source of revenue. So they have analysed and identified parts which will benefit from AM, and implemented accordingly.
Miele are seemingly not so concerned with making a tonne of money from this (in the short term at least), and it seems like more of a fun thing which may lead to something in future (which is good for marketing). The company says that they will add more files.
It would be nice to see some more useful items, with a little more complexity and possibly moving parts installed during printing.
Miele have a ton of world class product designers and manufacturing engineers working within their ranks so it will be interesting to see what fun and useful things they put up next.
In the meantime, here is the bubble attachment as promised.