Porsche is reproducing classic parts that have been out of production for decades using 3D-printing.
Owning a classic car comes with all sorts of headaches. Reliability is often a cause for concern and sourcing spare parts that have been out of production for decades can be a nightmare for collectors. Sometimes, a car can even be scrapped due to the unavailability of spare parts. Porsche, however, has a unique solution for sourcing rare classic parts for some of its vintage models. Porsche Classic, a division dedicated to vintage cars, has announced it will be using 3D printers to produce extremely rare parts only needed in small quantities.
The news comes not long after Bugatti recently unveiled the world's first 3D-printed brake caliper. Porsche says all 3D-printed parts will be both visually and technically faithful to original specifications. Currently, the Porsche Classic range includes 52,000 parts. If a spare part is no longer in production or has limited stock, it is reproduced using original tools. However, supplying spare parts that are only required in very limited numbers poses a significant challenge since producing small batches with new tools wouldn't be very economically efficient, but 3D printing is a much cheaper alternative for the production of small quantities.
Porsche refers to the release lever for the clutch being unavailable on the 959 as an example component ideal for 3D-printing. Made from grey cast iron, this component has very high quality requirements, but is in low demand since only 292 examples of the sports car were ever produced. According to Porsche, the only manufacturing process worth considering for the release lever would be selective laser melting. A layer of powdery tool steel less than 0.1 millimeters thick is applied to a processing plate in a computerized process. In an inert atmosphere, a high-energy light beam then melts the powder in the desired locations to create a steel layer.
As a result, the complete three-dimensional component is produced layer by layer. Following a pressure test with a load of almost three tonnes and an examination for internal faults, the printed release lever passed with flying colours. Porsche also conducted practical driving tests with the lever installed in a test car, which "confirm the impeccable quality and function of the component". In addition, Porsche is also manufacturing eight other parts using 3D printing. These include steel and alloy parts produced using the selective laser melting process, and plastic components manufactured using an SLS printer.
All parts are subject to the quality requirements of the original production period as a minimum, though Porsche says they usually meet higher standards. Size and fit accuracy is ensured by performing tests with the part installed. Porsche Classic is also considering producing a further 20 components using 3D printing since they can be produced on demand if required, eliminating tool and storage costs.