Car and Driver
Going Pro Image Credit: Car and Driver
Going Pro Image Credit: Car and Driver

Going Pro

3-d Printing Makes the Leap From Hobbyist Simulacrums to Carmaker Reproductions.

Matt Jancer

THE WORST-CASE SCENARIO IN restoring a classic isn’t that a rare part might be hugely expensive. It’s when the part is out of production, there’s no aftermarket equal, and junkyards come up empty. Advancements in 3-D-printing technology mean that you might find someone who will knock out a replacement part for a minuscule customer base, but the variety of printers, design software, and operator motivations make it hard to be sure that the part you’re commissioning will measure up to the original. Now, though, car manufacturers are waking up to the technology’s potential. Brands such as Porsche and Mercedes are employing it to reproduce hard-to-find parts—such as window regulator stops, oil-pump covers, and mirror stands [see “Mirror Mirror”]—to the same rigorous standards that applied to the originals. Here’s a look at the process:


“I would say we have almost every drawing of parts in our archives,” says Ralph Wagenknecht, who handles communications for Mercedes-Benz’s classics division. In most cases, someone just needs to open a drawer and pull out the blueprints, but sometimes environmental regulations preclude making the desired part out of the original materials, forcing the engineers to redesign the component for the sake of compliance. Engineers use the original two-dimensional plans to build the digital 3-D model needed to

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