3D print of spare part for Porsche 911 Speedster

Porsche Classic will 3D print spare parts

Porsche Classic will 3D print spare parts

3D print of spare parts is the way forward for Porsche Classic. Soon those rare spare parts can be supplied as new from the original supplier.

Porsche Classic – the vintage arm of the German brand – has revealed it’s going to start 3D printing parts of classic cars, making some of the scarcest parts much easier to obtain.

The Porsche Classic range currently includes some 52,000 parts. If a certain spare part is no longer in stock or stock is dwindling, it is reproduced using the original tools. For larger quantities, production may require the use of new tools. However, ensuring the supply of spare parts that are only required in very limited numbers sometimes poses a major challenge, even for the experts. Producing small batches using new tools would be largely inefficient. Before embarking on a project to produce a particular component, Porsche Classic always evaluates various manufacturing processes.

3D printed crank arm for the Porsche 964


3D print is coming fast!

Porsche are not the first car brand to enter the 3D printing industry. Last year, Volkswagen began using additive manufacturing to restore their old cars. So far they have produced gear shifters, water connectors for engines, and metal pieces to connect door handles to leather interiors.

Another part of the VW family, Bugatti, have used the technology to create the world’s first 3D printed brake caliper. Made entirely from titanium, which is a very hard metal to work with using traditional manufacturing techniques, it allowed Bugatti to save 40 % weight, while getting a much stronger and more durable part. But it was a tedious process that required 45 hours of printing and over 2,200 metal layers.

Mini has also started 2018 with an offer of 3D printing for their customers. In a service called “Mini Yours”, they offer printed side decorations, personalised door handles, and LED lights for the doors. All of which confirms the suspicion that you’d have to be mad to drive a Mini.


Porsche 959 as guinea pig

Porsche first tested a 3D printed spare part in a Porsche 959, a collector’s car that is highly sought after. Only 292 Porsche 959s were ever built, so finding rare spare parts can be a bit of a pain to put it lightly. This made it the perfect test-bed for Porsche’s new manufacturing process.

Experiments started with the Porsche 959’s lever release for the clutch. It is one of those tiny and normally relatively inexpensive parts that can suddenly snap from wear and fatigue, and leave you dead on your tracks for months, while you scour the internet for a replacement.

Using 3D-printing Porsche Classic produced a new clutch lever release for the 959 and sent it through a series of hard exams. First, they subjected it to a pressure test where it withstood a load of almost three tonnes. Then, came a tomographic examination. Yes, that’s a big word. They could have called it image slicing, because that’s basically what it is. Think of it as a MR scan, where every bit of a part can be examined nanometres at a time.

Lastly, they did the fun test. They installed the new release lever in a Porsche 959 and drove it around for hours like men possessed. Sort of beats looking at bits through a fancy microscope, huh?

The printed part passed all these tests with flying colours. So the path is now clear to an expansion of the entire programme.


The future of Porsche’s 3D print programme

At the moment, Porsche Classic has added 8 parts to its digital spare part library, though this is still in its test phase. The parts are still being tested for their temperature resistance, fuel and light resistance, and more. Porsche are planning to add 20 more pieces following a pilot test, with the goal to expand their 3D printable spare part range considerably.

There is a desperate need for a wide range of very scarce spare parts for a wide range of classic air-cooled Porsche models. So we will continue to track the development in this field and keep you posted when Porsche Classic expands its 3D-print spare parts catalogue. Soon, you may be able to find those floats for 40PII-4 Solex carburettors, you have been searching for.


What is this 3D-printing sorcery?

Previously, there had been problems around using 3D printing for metal parts as the technology was still in its infancy. Now however technology has taken another big leap with direct metal laser sintering technologies. These allow manufacturers to create metal parts with strong mechanical properties in addition to the now established process of 3D printing plastics for the plastic parts of cars. Combined, these technologies have the potential to be a great cost-saver for Porsche as they won’t need to store any inventory and can just print on-demand. This is in line with recent research suggesting 5% of spare parts can be stored digitally, to be 3D printed when needed.

So technically, it is a bit misleading to call Porsche Classic’s process 3D printing. More accurately, it’s direct metal laser sintering. Not exactly new, but very useful. And very expensive. Porsche themselves, call the process ‘selective laser melting’ or SLS for short. It basically involves using a laser to create one layer at a time. The process can be used for both steel and other metals, depending on the part.

Here’s how Porsche itself explains it: “A layer of powdery steel tool less than 0.1mm thick is applied to a processing plate in a computerised process. In an inert atmosphere, a high-energy light beam then melts the powder in the desired locations to create a steel layer.”

In other words: They squirt a cloud of metal dust onto a part and fire a laser beam at the places they want it to stick. As expected, the process is slow, expensive and not suitable for mass production – but it’s still dramatically cheaper than making a one-off in the normal way, and it’s much easier to get a hold of, too.

As the quality of direct metal laser sintering continues to improve with generally decreasing costs, this form of manufacturing presents an economic alternative for the production of small quantities.


Are you excited about our 3D print future?

Is this great news or what? Every owner of a classic Porsche knows the frustration of sourcing rare spare parts. Don’t you? What do you think Porsche should put in their programme next?

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