According to this Chrysler Dealer in Westminster, MD, you may make parts for your car via 3D printing and you do not even need to own a 3D printer. Of course, you still need a part design, instead of printing it yourself, you ship off the design to a professional 3D printing company. Just consider how useful this might be in the car restoration hobby where replacement parts are almost impossible to get anywhere.
How the printer works
There are many kinds of 3D printers. They might look different and use different materials, but all use the same basic approach for creating a 3D object by building the object one layer at a time. The process begins on the base layer and then adds layers up from there. It’s simple; it builds an object in three dimensions just like standard printers “build” something in two dimensions.
It begins with a 3D model
The object being printed begins with a 3D image of the item. This is typically created by hand with a computer-assisted design (CAD) software program. Then, the object is sliced into what is usually thousands of ultra-thin horizontal layers. Then all the printer needs to do is assemble all ultra-thin horizontal layers one at a time with a material that fuses together.
Inexpensive 3D printers deposit a polymer material sort of like an automated glue gun. The polymer comes in spools and in many of types and colors. More professional 3D-printed metal parts are created through “selective laser sintering” which involves heating and solidifying a granular metal material through use of a high-power laser.
Product Design Libraries
You do not always have to design the item you want by hand. Many of the 3D printing companies have libraries of product designs. For a number of users, these designs may provide a nice starting point for your own designs. Enthusiasts will probably later build libraries of all the classic cars parts for others to share and use.
An example for designing your own model
A fellow on the instructables.com website explained how he 3D printed broken door handles for the 1962 Valiant he restored. You might ask, “why not look for original surplus handles (NOS) ones?” The issue is that the originals were made of a weak diecast metal, which doesn’t age well. He could have looked for NOS handles but they would probably be brittle because of their age.
The first thing to do in the 3D printing process was to measure the window regulator mechanism spline that juts out from the door panel. The above-mentioned instructables.com user measured it down to the .01mm level with a micrometer. Then the door handle needed to be designed over the female spline hole. The individual used a 3D CAD program called MODO to create a 3D model of the handle.
Once the 3D model was complete, he uploaded it to ShapeWays, a 3D printing company. Mr. or Ms. Broken Door Handle Repairer could have had the handles made of stainless steel but instead chose a strong black plastic. After placing the order, the 3D printing creation arrived in 2 weeks and they fit the Valiant perfectly.