Randy Sartin Photography/Oak Ridge National Laboratory
By Mark Weisseg
By now, most of us have heard about 3D printing. You must have that special printer and software, but are these devices the solution for making rare car parts?
Just think, with every classic car there is a need for a part now and then. Sometimes you find the part and when it arrives you realize it is crappy.
It happens and I like you can tell you stories of a need for name brand parts and all you can get are the front disc rotors cheap, and they are throw away rotors. No way Jose, I want the best pads and rotors as well as calipers on my car. Not some knock off garbage.
I can see the day when this 3D printing will be a norm in the car industry. I have seen a car built this way, like the 3-D printed Shelby Cobra below, so you can only imagine parts will be next.
We all know if you need parts for a standard classic car, the parts come easily. It’s the quality you need to be concerned with, which means a 3-D printing process not only has to produce the part, but a part of quality.
This will resolve itself in the near future. What if you are a lucky dude and have some off beat cool old car where parts are impossible to come by? I can see a day soon when you will be able to make a cylinder head, maybe not as cheap as a supplier but you can control the quality. That’s the key to this whole gig when eventually we can do this ourselves.
The big hurdle as I see it is being able to 3-D print in any material available to production quality.
Currently, plastics are the easiest method, but we need metals or version of carbon fibre.
Many manufacturers are heavily investing in 3-D printing for prototyping and final production, some currently producing metal parts from an advance process using metal powder fused together by electron beams and lasers to form a metal part.
The convenience factor would also be a benefit. When Craig was rebuilding my truck he would assign me to get all the parts shipped to his house. The UPS guy and the Fed X girl knew his house like there own. But one part that haunted me was outer tie rod ends. Everyone had half ton tie rods but I could not find three quarter ton tie rods to save my soul. I wanted an entire new front suspension on that truck and the tie rods became such an issue Craig and I discussed just rebuilding them. If I had the 3D printer and such I could have solved the problem in a few days, not the months it took me to locate one part.
So, keep watching this development as we move forward together and I am willing to believe someday will be able to 3-D print any car part we wish.