Obtaining parts for older or classic vehicles can be difficult depending on the make and model. Automakers and parts suppliers eventually stop making parts once demand for aftermarket goods drops off, and owners have to rely on salvaged parts, the collector’s market, or even having new parts fabricated or machined at their own expense.
Porsche Classic, the automaker’s division for servicing classic vehicle owners, is using 3D printing to help solve this problem.
Porsche Classic currently offers around 52,000 spare parts, but there are still parts that either no longer exist or are only available from a dwindling inventory. In the past, the company had to manufacture small batches of these parts, sometimes using brand new tooling – an expensive and inefficient process.
Enter additive manufacturing. Porsche is currently manufacturing less than a dozen different parts for its classic vehicles using 3D printing, including steel and alloy parts (created using selective laser melting) and plastic components (manufactured via selective laser sintering).
According to Porsche: “All parts are subject to the quality requirements of the original production period as a minimum, though they usually meet higher standards. Accuracy in terms of size and fit is ensured by performing tests with the part installed. Depending on the area of application, plastic parts made of various materials as in the original must be resistant to oils, fuels, acids and light.”
The company is currently testing 20 additional components for the 3D printing initiative. For Porsche, there is potential savings in tooling and storage costs, and the parts can be printed using just a 3D scan of a part or design data for the existing parts.
Additive manufacturing could be a boon to the aftermarket parts industry, particularly for low-demand parts for older and classic cars. Recently, logistics giant DB Schenker also announced it would offer 3D printing of replacement parts as part of an expansion in the auto parts sector.