It’s a 3D Printed Wrench-Off : UPDATE

There was a bit of attention recently surrounding a video theoretical physicist David Kaplan visiting 3D printing technology company Z Corporation where the process is demonstrated by the company’s Vice President of
Product Management, Joe Titlow. The clip show the “printing” of a
replica wrench, which, when complete, is used to tighten a nut in the
same way that a “real” wrench would be used.

The video went viral racking up nearly 5 million views so far and even flagged as being a fake..

Now Objet has released a video too getting in on the wrench action..

Kind of interesting considering the long history of use of rapid prototyping in toolmaking. Are you ready to start toolmaking with Shapeways 3D printing?

UPDATE: There was a bit of heat online about the inaccuracy of the footage between the scanning and printing process as the 3D scan was in no way used to create the model 3D printed. Check out David Kaplan’s response to what must have turned into a torrent of negative responses from the CAD and 3D print community.


  1. Aaron Trocola

    Duann, you’re sort of missing an important detail of this story that takes some digging to get to, even in the link that claims to explain it clearly.

    Zcorp is claiming that they scanned a wrench and printed out a copy, when in fact a CAD designer modeled a completely new wrench using the scan as a size reference (reverse engineering). They did not just “fix” or “change” the model. No part of the scan data was used in the print. Even Zcorp’s correction is still not acknowledging this fact. It is a disturbing trend in this industry to see everyone from Makerbot Industries to printer manufacturers struggling to conceal and devalue the human input that makes their technology useful. What is the motivation for this, I wonder?

  2. GWMT

    Yawn. I got a 4-inch long version of that wrench printed in ABS by a Dimension machine at a trade show in 2006 – I still use it to tighten bolts around the house. It looks like Zcorp used the same file to print their wrench.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to find the wrench file is available for free download on 3D Content Central or a similar site.

    Yep – there’s a 12″ version of the wrench available for download.

  3. Aaron Trocola

    Looking more closely at the video, you’re right that they didn’t even reverse engineer the wrench, so they did not “copy” anything, just printed a pre-made model. The wrench you link to is a different model, however.

    Zcorp printers are some of the best on the market, especially for educational use. Why go through all this song and dance for an application that does not even work on their machine (functional hand tools)?

  4. Duann

    Thanks Aaron and GWMT,

    What may be old news to 3D print a wrench to us, and though a ‘show business’ rendering of the process may not be accurate, this is a story about potential to educate the mass market. Perhaps if they were to show all of the steps needed to scan and 3D print an object (with concealed moving parts) the video may not have been quite as futuristic cool for the masses and it would not have raised awareness as this one has. Then again to me it is so cool we can already just download the design anyway…

    I did see the discussions about the process but just wanted to present it’s popularity.

    Thanks again for your input..

    Let us know what you think we can do to spread the message with more accuracy?

  5. Aaron Trocola

    The physicist in the video, David Kaplan, has responded with a video that clearly explains the facts.

    Major respect to him for being 100% truthful, and National Geographic deserves credit for removing the video from their website in keeping with their normally high journalistic standards.

    1. Duann

      Thanks Aaron for sharing that link, I have updated the post to include it.

      Looks like David has had a rough week..

  6. Dizingof

    “..and that was crap”.. that sums it up.

    1. Zcorp’s attempt to display magic will cost them in lots of PR dollars.

    2. I would have expected 1000% integrity from National Geographic – they should not have played along the with that BS..

    3. I fail to understand what made the producers think the intellectual level of the kind of viewers who would be interested in this technology news are 8 years old.. who would not understand that there is another stage between scanning and sending a model to a 3D printer..

    No one can mimic Apple! :-D

    1. Duann

      Hey Dizingof,
      It was not ZCorp that shot or edited the video it was National Geographic. I think Zcorp were as surprised as anyone to see the edit.

      National Geographic have since pulled the footage, and perhaps the channel does not have the same integrity as the publication. Hmmm, maybe that weird footage of the Lions fighting with the crocodiles over an impala was not real after all ;)

      We also must remember that the Shapeways community is way up the learning curve compared to the average joe who still thinks 3D printing refers to lenticular images or they have to cross their eyes for 90 seconds to see a sailing boat in a seemingly random image..

  7. Felix Schill

    So, who’s next printing a metal wrench? Titanium, anyone? :) It would be a bit expensive for just a PR stunt, but I think I saw some videos by EADS who use laser sintering to make metal parts for aircraft that are actually lighter and stronger than what they used to do with conventional machining.

    Shame though that “popular science” programs always have to leave out some crucial details without need – they must have a pretty dim view of their viewer’s mental abilities… Instead of the scanning stunt, they could have said so many cool things – like, that everybody has access to it for a couple of bucks! :)

  8. Stijn van der Linden

    *flagged as being a fake..*

    Ah that brings back memories :-)

    When I first posted the “Gyro the Cube” video, it did not exactly go viral, but these were the initial responses:

    “thats fake you took 1000 pics”

    “well fake video. i don’t doubt the thing may actually work, but expecting people to believe that the video shown does not use the 21st century super-technique alien technology known as ‘stop-motion’ is just stupid”

    Goes to show the magic of 3d printing :-)

Comments are closed.