Ensuring quality through 3D Printing

Classic Cars and Hotrods are an American icon. As such, men and women spend a great deal of time and finances acquiring and restoring the classics. According to a report by Cars Direct, the acquisition cost of a Classic Car could run around $15,000 or more and the parts could run in excess of $10,000. Add to this a $75.00 an hour labor costs, and the restoration costs of your Classic Car could quickly get out of hand. However, if you use a metal 3D Printer for some of the pieces, and if you perform some of the restorations yourself, your cost and the time allocated to the building of your Classic Car could be greatly reduced. Here is how you can start building your classic car with a 3D Printer.

Acquire reference photos

The first step to take when building your classic car with a 3D Printer is to obtain reference material. As the pieces which you are to replace are most likely to be corroded, rusted, or non-existent on the current vehicle, the internet is going to be your best resource. Yes, you can look for stock images. Yet, for 3D CAD Design, which is what you will need before fabrication of the part, you will need to have dimensions or a layered image. Take for example a simple MPH gauge of a mustang.


Stock reference, layered, and 3D image for Mustang MPG dial provided by Siclari Studio of Art and Design

While the gauge in this picture looks as though it is ready to go to print, there are a few considerations that a person conducting a restoration should have. First, does the image have all of the decal information in place? Secondly, is it saved in a format to give depth to the gauge (the numbers are going over the 3D decline space where the multiple rings are located)? When choosing your images ensure that you are getting something which will work for the model, not just something which is aesthetically pleasing. In this example, it is more beneficial for 3D Printing with Metal that the image be stripped of the decals and only the layers pertaining to the 3D Printed Object be displayed. The decals can always be added at a later stage.

Have the model CAD ready

In order to ensure that the part that you are fabricating will be to the exact size and specifications needed for your classic car, it is critical that the file used for the metal 3D printer have accurate dimensions. While the scaling of the 3D CAD Design should be 1:1 if possible, there are times when the measurements may be off, primarily due to the automatic scaling options found within certain software programs. As such, CAD Operators should have the Engineering Drawings present to compare the onscreen model, sheet dimensions, and fabricated part for accuracy.


Piston Head dimension sheet provided by Siclari Studios

Getting your part ready for 3D Printing

Models which are to be turned over to a Commercial 3D Printing Company should be in standard 3D object format. These formats include .obj, STEP,DWG, Pro-E, and Parasolid. It is not advised that you save your component to a software specific file such as .max or .mb, as it could be that the company you choose for 3D printing parts has an older/non-compatible version of the software. When possible save in a cross-platform format.

Many times, when you are building your classic car with 3D printing, you will rely upon the services of a modeler. Ensure that the person preparing the 3D Printer Design keeps the polygon count as low as possible while still maintaining a level of accuracy and detail. It is better to lean on the side of too many polygons in this case rather than to try to make the file smaller with a reduction of polygons in the modeling only to end up with a defective part for your classic car.

Printing your car parts from home

While for the larger fabricated parts, you will need to use a professional service, for the smaller parts, and for some non-critical components, a Desktop 3D Printer may work. A Zortax 3D printer would be appropriate for the fabrication of 3D plastic parts. When printing 3D parts, you will need to fix, test, sand imperfections, paint, and install the product. Note, when building your classic car, you will need to check the extrusion and bed heat of the 3D printer. Smaller parts may warp or bend (even if you have the settings and the dimensions correct) which would require some 3D tweaking and printer adjustments. This is common and expected for the printing process.

As with any 3D printed product, it is advised that you give the fabricated part time to adjust to the environment (for expansion and durability testing) for the best results.

A final thought

Although building a classic car can get expensive and using a metal 3D Printer can minimize the cost, you will still need to have certain parts custom ordered. To optimize the building of your classic car, it is suggested that you make a list of the parts that you can fabricate on the Desktop 3D Printer, parts which need to be fabricated by a professional, and those parts which must be ordered from a car part supplier. This way, you have an outlined plan on how you will acquire each part for your project.

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Special Guest Blogger Douglas Siclari of Siclari Studios

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