I read of an unusual application of 3D printing involving fingertips.
3D printing is a technology that provides an ability to create custom shapes, and this process is ideal for producing personalized items. This has led to a number of unusual custom wearables, including: shoes, clothing, eyeglasses, masks and a few others.
Now there is another personalized item to add to this list: fingertips.
A project was undertaken by Farsoon, a Chinese manufacturer of 3D metal printers that recently opened up operations in the USA. They worked with the Chinese Olympic team to produce sets of custom fingertips in titanium for the speed skating team.
As the skaters whisk around the oval, they must drop their left hand and touch the ice surface. Of course, this produces significant wear on common gloves, so speed skating teams opt for unusual gloves with special resin or gel tips. These would provide comfort and safety for the skaters, who are moving at considerable speed.
However, the new method produces far thinner and stronger titanium fingertips that are precisely matched for each individual skaters. In fact, they’re customized for each fingertip.
Resin or gel tips would adapt to anyone’s fingertips because of the flexibility of the material, but that is not an option with titanium, hence the need for custom fingertip designs.
The resulting fingertips provided a superior experience, not only due to weight, but the thinness enabled the athletes to be “closer” to the ice. The titanium also provided far less resistance when touching the ice surface. This may sound like a minor thing, but in a sport where winners are decided in milliseconds, it could be the difference between losing and winning.
The lesson here for 3D printer companies is that there are indeed far more applications for personalized products that have yet to be discovered. This is one, but there are certainly many others.