3D printers have been a boon for creative people and manufacturers. The ability to design and prototype objects has revolutionised many businesses and will only become more prevalent. As the technology continues to be democratised as prices fall, more different printing substrates become available and plans become more accessible. Porsche is getting on the act. The collectors and restorers of classic Porsche vehicles can now go to the German company when they need a hard-to-find part and have one made for them.
Porsche Classic, the division of Porsche dedicated to classic vehicles, holds a range of about 52,000 parts. But if a certain spare part is no longer in stock or stock is dwindling, it is reproduced using the original tools. In some cases, new tools need to be made. However, ensuring the supply of spare parts that are only required in very limited numbers can be expensive and inefficient.
In some cases, Porsche only produced very small runs of certain vehicles, future adding to the scarcity of parts. For example, just 292 vehicles were produced when the company released Porsche 959. In order to produce something like the release lever for the clutch, Porsche is turning to 3D printed parts.
This component made from grey cast iron is subject to very high quality requirements, but is in very low demand. Porsche is using selective laser melting and selective laser sintering to produce various components.
All parts that are produced by Porsche using these processes are subject, at a minimum, to the quality requirements of the original production period. And parts are tested after installation to ensure the are perfectly reproduced.
At this stage, the company is making just eight components this way with testing on another 20 parts in progress.