Miele, the high-end German manufacturer of consumer goods, now offers downloadable 3D models for printing.
The company produces a wide array of top-notch consumer products, including vacuums, stoves, refrigerators, washers and dryers, wine coolers, dishwashers, coffee makers, and much more. Last year their revenue exceeded €4B, making them one of the largest producers of appliances in the world.
Appliance makers are one type of manufacturer I always thought could provide benefit to their customers through 3D printing. Specifically, it’s that moment we all experience: the knob on the dishwasher has broken, and we mentally debate whether to buy a replacement for US$79 or simply use a pair of pliers instead. Usually, we end up paying.
If only the company would simply issue the 3D model for the knob, we could merrily 3D print it and get on with the dish cleaning. But that’s not happening for these reasons:
- Why would a company give away or sell at a low price a 3D model for a part they could charge you an outrageous amount for instead?
- Would a company publicly distribute a 3D model that is their intellectual property, and thus lose control of it?
- When would a company subvert the business model for their wide parts distribution network upon which they depend?
Nope, we’re not seeing dishwasher knobs or any other replacement parts online from most major appliance makers anytime soon.
But instead we are seeing complementary products.
Take the case of Miele, which recently announced “Miele 3D4U”, an initiative to distribute 3D printable designs over the network to customers at no charge.
The initiative offers a website explaining the (currently) ten items for distribution, all of which offer added value to their products. If you happen to own a Miele vacuum, for instance, you can 3D print these accessories and make it even more functional.
The ten items distributed by Miele include:
- Micro Handle — a small version of a vacuum nozzle for getting into tiny areas
- Bubble Attachment — make your Miele vacuum blow bubbles (Why doesn’t every vacuum manufacturer offer this????)
- Flexi Nozzle — a bendy vacuum nozzle attachment to allow for more coverage (two sizes)
- Mono Bracket — attach another accessory to a vacuum
- Valuables Separator — vacuum nozzle attachment to avoid small items in a drawer
- Motif Dispenser — coffee device to mark foam with your custom design
- Coffee Clip — convenient way to close an open coffee bag
- Borehole Cleaning Aid — vacuum attachment to slurp up debris when boring a hole with a drill (I am going to try out this one, as it works on any drill)
- Twin Adapter — vacuum splitter to allow for two simultaneously operating heads
One interesting aspect is that Miele is not actually hosting the files themselves. Instead they have opened up a Thingiverse account and are posting them there, while only linking to them from the Miele site proper. This is perhaps a way to gain greater coverage and noticeability through Thingiverse’s massive audience.
While these parts are definitely not going to repair your broken vacuum, they are quite creative and appear highly functional. If I owned a Miele vacuum, I’d be printing all of them.
I’d like to see more manufacturers take this approach, where they make their products better through online 3D models, at least for those with access to a 3D printer.