Do you remember a couple of years ago, when everyone (in 3D printing land anyway and a few million people besides) got very excited about 3D printed wrenches? Well that was a well-timed, well-executed marketing gimmick by Z-corp, that went some way to help kickstart the entire 3D printing industry in terms of awareness and, unfortunately, hype. Two years down the line and we have a very different 3D printed wrench proposition. This is a serious tool, manufactured by a serious 3D printing method, with some serious 3D printing industry backing.

NRG3 Wrench 3D modelThe tool in question is the innovative NRG3 —  or New Ratchet 3rd Generation — a  3D printable roller wrench. Conceived by Roller Clutch Tools LLC, and currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, the NRG3 is a gearless ratchet that utilises roller mechanisms  rather than gears. The premise is that rollers are stronger, faster and safer to use in this type of wrench, with the added benefit of no back swing.

Some of the key applications for the patented NRG3 include assembling printer kits, RC planes, motors, bicycles, robots and appliances.

The premise for the NRG3 is a valid two-fold argument and Roller Clutch Tools’ words express it eloquently:

“#1 is the fact that the current style of ratchet wrenches is technically outdated and in need of some serious improvement.

#2 is the fact that many of the products being made today with 3D printers are well beneath the potential of this technology.

Our team has worked long and hard to make the NRG3 a reality. The process involved is extremely tedious and has required several years of blood, sweat and tears.  We are finally at the point where we can launch this product and eagerly await the impact this tool will have on additive manufacturing.”

To this end, Roller Clutch Tools is partnering with Solid Concepts in the US to supply both prototypes and parts for production using the laser sintering 3D printing process.

But this is not the only 3D printing company to supply its backing and support. I got wind of this project from Brook Drumm of Printrbot over the weekend (I covered the Printrbot updates on 3DPI yesterday) and he is really very excited by it. He said: “I have gotten LOADS of Kickstarters begging me to throw my support behind their project… I almost never do.  But one of my meet-up attendees pulled out the sweetest ratchet wrench I have ever seen or used.  I begged him to sell it to me right there.  I am not kidding – there is no way I can explain how good this wrench is… it is so silky smooth with absolutely ZERO backlash or lost distance when engaging the drive. I am sitting here grinning just thinking about it. I love tools and have grown to appreciate the RIGHT tool for the job… you need this tool. When he told me he wanted to do a Kickstarter, I immediately gave him all my tips and volunteered to be in the video.  I am not getting paid to endorse this at all, but he was kind enough to ask me to be on his board!  Why? (wait for it…) The handles are going to be 3d printed!  I love this. Love it love it love it.  If his Kickstarter funds, I will volunteer to offer the printing power of our community – a venerable 3D print army!  Each printed handle will earn a fee and we can all be part of a new way to manufacture.  Its been a pet peeve of mine for a while that people throw around “decentralized manufacturing” and other claims about 3D printers and printing.  I have never actually seen this at work.  Now is our chance.  I hope you will consider backing – you WILL NOT REGRET IT…. this wrench is so choice… AND you can opt to be a part of the Printrbot 3D Print Army that will fill these orders.  I, for one, hope this thing happens just to have a real example of ACTUAL decentralized manufacturing from community members.”

That’s quite an endorsement, I thought. And if they pull it off, a great achievement.

So, I’ll leave you with a final thought from Roller Clutch Tools and their pitch video to watch at your leisure:

“Can you imagine a world where 3D [printed] products are both readily available and relevant? Really cool tools deserve to be made with awesome methods. As our friend Steve Jobs once said, ‘humans are basically tool builders.’  We believe that it is time to take the world of tools to a whole new level.”

Oh, and one final thing — I am loving the way this story — of another wrench — brings balance. Not important, but it tickled me.

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