3D printing technology has taken the world by storm, taking two dimensional images and printing them in three dimensional form. In Jay Leno’s garage, he uses 3D printers to recreate classic car parts that have gotten rusty over time. Many of the parts are no longer made or difficult to have made, so he turned to 3D technology to recreate and replace them.
All he needs is a 3D scanner and printer. The process is one that is more convenient and affordable than finding a machinist who can copy and rebuild. Even if a machinist builds the part wrong, it still has to be paid for.
The scanner first scans the part at 50,000 points per second. The density is 160,000 dpi, which then creates a detailed digital model. Defects in the part may be included, but those defects can be removed by software. The 3D printer then creates a plastic replica, which is sent out so a mold can be created.
In some cases, the printer can create a replacement part in cobalt chrome. This is done using what is called the “direct laser sintering process.”
During the 3D printing process, the printer head moves back and forth, placing layers of plastic on top of one another. It is not out of the ordinary for a 3D part to take over 24 hours to complete, but the system creates the perfect part. Rather than receive a fabricated part and it not fit, 3D printing makes securing the perfect fit much easier. The machinist simply replicates the part in metal. Leno can input the data into a Fadal CNC machine to create a metal replica of the plastic part.
Putting Old Cars on the Road
Leno’s 1907 White Engine is a success story because it would have most likely never run again without this technology. It had a shot slide valve. Because they were able to duplicate the part and have it built, the car is running. This isn’t the only success story in his garage.
While 3D printers are not cheap, the prices are expected to come down over time. There are different price points based on the capabilities of the printer. The printer that Jay Leno uses costs upward of $15,000, but 3D printing is saving him more than that on replacement car parts for his classic cars. This could mark the beginning of a new era for mechanics.
Picture credit: rapidform.com