If you've got a rare older car, then you'll know how hard it can be to find parts. While it's possible for suppliers to make compatible spare parts using traditional production tools, doing so isn't very efficient if only a few are needed. With this in mind, Porsche Classic (which is a division of the Porsche company) has begun 3D-printing the things.
An example described by the automaker is the release lever for the clutch on a Porsche 959 – a part that's no longer available, given that only 292 of the cars were manufactured.
That part was recently brought back to life using a process known as selective laser melting. This involves utilizing a high-energy laser beam to melt steel powder in a precise pattern, thus building the three-dimensional object up one layer at a time. The finished product reportedly passed both a pressure test and a tomographic examination for internal faults, along with practical tests in which the part was installed and used in a test vehicle.
Porsche Classic is now 3D-printing eight other parts – made of both steel and plastic – plus it's assessing whether the technology is appropriate for a further 20. In all cases, the parts will have to meet the quality requirements of the original production period as a minimum, although they have so far usually exceeded them.
Ultimately, it is hoped that old, obscure parts can simply be made on demand. This would eliminate the costs involved in storing part-specific production tools and pre-made parts.
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