Porsche set to produce classic parts from 3D printing
Struggling to find that elusive component for your classic? Porsche have produced new parts for their classic cars using 3D printer technology
The angst of painful phrases such as ‘out of stock’ or ‘no longer available’ remains an agony so familiar to collectors of rare classics. Being unable to find or locate a certain part can cause restoration headaches and even force cars yearning for the road back into storage. Exotic and custom-made supercars, GT cruisers and sports coupés are the serial offenders – but not if you own a Porsche!
Porsche Classic, the division from Stuttgart dedicated to definitive Porsche vehicles, has successfully tried a new solution to the dreaded unavailability factor. The revolutionary new plan involves using 3D printers to manufacture unique or seldom discovered components for bespoke, rare or unusual Porsches.
All workings crafted using the 3D printing process meet strict requirements ensuring absolutely fidelity to original specifications, not only from a technical perspective but also from a visual stance, too.
Old machines still in use
With some 52,000 parts calculated to be residing within the Porsche Classic range, there is always going to be something that is no longer mass-produced, or even produced at all.
Yet, if you now require a certain part that is no longer in stock, Porsche Classics can employ the original tools to fabricate each element – with new machinery expected for larger orders. There is a challenge here, however, with rife inefficiency in the process of supplying classic parts in small batches. Therefore Porsche Classic always evaluate various manufacturing processes – which can take a serious amount of time.
A further issue is raised for those austere about originality. With so few specimens of certain models built – only 292 Porsche 959s, for example – certain parts can never effectively be mass produced. If a part is made from cast iron in need of replacement, the only manufacturing process Porsche will consider is laser melting – also known as 3D printing.
How does Porsche 3D printing work?
If you are needing to manufacture a clutch release lever, Porsche’s first example undertaken, a deposit of powdery steel less than 0.1 millimeters thick is layered onto a processing plate for the completely automated process. A high-energy light beam, in an inert atmosphere, melts the powder on the required locations to create a steel layer – producing a 3D part layer by layer.
The component is then tested with installation into a test vehicle, followed by extensive driving assessments to assert quality and function. Needless to say, even after a three-tonne test weight, the clutch release lever passed effortlessly. It would take an educated Porsche scrutiniser to notice any difference when looking at the product, let alone identify the non-original part in operation.
With such positive results from experiments carried out to date, Porsche is now manufacturing eight further parts with this 3D printing method. The components now printed are of steel and alloy build, plastic parts are not manufactured with the same laser – rather a Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) printer. This is a process which finds the source material heated to just below melting point, with the laser fusing the plastic powder on a desired point.
All printed elements are checked with the stringent guidelines to ensure quality and accuracy is of the highest order.
What does the future hold?
Porsche Classic is now underway with further testing, seeking results to put a further 20 components into production. Three dimensional design data will always lead to a sufficient production method. Parts can be produced on demand, without tool or storage costs.
Here are some examples of the intricate parts already produced: