For some time now, 3D printing of spares has been heralded as a potential solution to sourcing scarce parts. But if you don’t have the original dimensions or drawings to work to, what then?
For context, 3D printing broadly synonymous with what’s called additive manufacturing, a process that builds a three-dimensional object usually by successively adding material layer by layer. 3D printing has moved on considerably since. Porsche Classic raised the bar in 2018 when it began to 3D print reproduction parts including a clutch release lever for the 959 supercar using a selective laser melting (SLM) process to layer it up from powdered steel. This was ideal for what needed to be a high quality item, but wasn’t worth keeping as a stock item as only 292 cars were produced. The cost for producing it on demand could be justified as 959s usually sell for seven figures.
It’s not just a print process, however. Before an object can be 3D printed, it needs a file to work from – usually a computer-aided design (CAD) model. The likes of Porsche have reams of original plans they can use, but if you don’t have these or want to replicate a part that can’t easily be captured by manual measuring, all is no longer lost. 3D scanning creates a digital version of a physical object with a level of detail and accuracy that can’t be achieved by traditional methods.
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