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  1. #1

    Printing car parts?

    Hi all, new here. A question for all you 3D printer guys: Do you think that I could possibly use a 3D printer, to print car parts? Are there any obstacles to this, or any reason this shouldn't be done? I buy and sell used cars a lot, and I'm always needing some little plastic (and sometimes metal) part. Often times interior parts will crack, as well as all other manner of car part that die, as I'm sure you're all well aware. The other day I had a perfectly good fuel pump assembly that I had to pay $85 to replace. All that was wrong with it, was the solid piece plastic cap was cracked. That's it. It had a crack in it. If I could have just used a 3D printer to print me a new plastic "cap" for this fuel pump assembly, I wouldn't have had to pay $85 for a new cap. Or like yesterday, I just needed a new interior vent for the dash on a Ford Focus. Had to buy one for $17. It was a solid piece. Couldn't I have just printed a new one?

    Next question:

    If I can do it, what is a good 3D printer for this purpose? What's a good 3D printer for a newbie, and that has the... size capacity to print parts that are up 1.5 to 2 feet long?

  2. #2
    Staff Engineer Davo's Avatar
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    Yes. And no. Some parts are a dream for a 3D printer; others are a nightmare.

    Simple brackets not exposed to excessive heat can be done in standard materials like ABS. Parts exposed to more heat need higher temperature plastics, like PC or PEEK. And beware of your orientation; think of the layers of a print as potential cleavage planes.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Davo View Post
    Yes. And no. Some parts are a dream for a 3D printer; others are a nightmare.

    Simple brackets not exposed to excessive heat can be done in standard materials like ABS. Parts exposed to more heat need higher temperature plastics, like PC or PEEK. And beware of your orientation; think of the layers of a print as potential cleavage planes.

    Ok thanks for the reply. So would PC or PEEK be something that is too expensive to use with a 3D printer, in the manner that I'm talking about? Just sort of at the hobbyist level. I understand what you're saying about all those heat cycles.

    Also, when you talk about cleavage planes, that reminds me of structural integrity. Are you saying that perhaps the created part, might be weaker than the original part? And not able to stand up to the use that it would see on an automobile? What with all the vibrations, and the weight that may be pressed upon it.

  4. #4
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    PEEK is brutally expensive even in solid chunks; I can only imagine what they get for it as filament. I bet it would make those replacement parts look like a bargain. And Davo is right about the cleavage planes; FDM parts have pretty good strength in the XY plane, but are weak in the Z direction, since all those layers have weak adhesion to one another. When you're orienting it for printing, it's good to take that into account.

  5. #5
    Super Moderator curious aardvark's Avatar
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    polycarbonate is fairly cheap to buy - in comparison to peek anyway.
    But it is an absolute nightmare to print with. Even with an enclosed print volume, it either doesn't stick to anything or it sticks to the point it won't let go.

    The other thing to bear in mind is that you will generally need to design the parts from scratch, yourself.
    You might find some models already existing on the interweb - thingiverse is pretty good for car parts.
    https://www.thingiverse.com/search/p...0592ff70aee457

    But most likely you'll need to get a digital caliper and do it yourself.

    So factor in the time taken to reverse engineer the part and then print it and the materials against going down a scrapyard and getting a used one.
    Last edited by curious aardvark; 06-01-2017 at 06:15 AM.

  6. #6
    Thanks again for the replies. This has been very helpful.

    So two things now:

    1. It seems like what I really need to know, is what printed parts would actually be able to stand up to being on a vehicle. Up until now I didn't really think that the strength of a 3D printed part would be much of an issue. Some people are printing (and using to some degree) knives and other such tools. How would I be able to figure out if a printed part, would ever be strong enough to handle use on an automobile? I guess that's my real question here. So many of them, I just don't see any reason they wouldn't work perfectly. Then again, someone already said that many of them would work just fine. Perhaps someone could cite a few examples of parts that would seem to be fine, but really wouldn't be strong enough. Obviously I'd never make any attempt to print anything that wasn't already plastic from the factory.

    2. Don't some 3D printers have a scanner? I've seen videos where you can put a part in a scanner, and it will make a model of it and send it over to the printer to be printed. I guess I just know so little of 3D printers that I didn't know that they don't generally come with such a scanner. And even then, you have the problem of the original part being broken. You'd have to somehow deal with the broken aspect of the part, so that the printer didn't just print another broken part. Which may be doable, through the use of glue. While the glue wouldn't hold up on the car, it may be enough to make the printer just print the part without the crack in it, for example.

  7. #7
    Engineer Marm's Avatar
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    Also be aware that some chemicals act as solvents for various materials. So depending what your pump cap was printed in, exposure to the fuel might reduce it to goo.

  8. #8
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    I know that Jay Leno uses 3D printers to make parts for his cars but he has expensive 3D printers, not desktop 3D printers. Sometimes, he uses 3D printers to make parts that are to be made another way such as casting. He has 3D scanners and 3D modeling software. For example, the only part for a car was broken and there are no good parts. He scans the part into 3D modeling software, clean up and fix the part, and prints the part. He also uses CNC machines for making new parts.

    Look at videos at https://www.google.com/search?q=jay+...hrome&ie=UTF-8

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Marm View Post
    Also be aware that some chemicals act as solvents for various materials. So depending what your pump cap was printed in, exposure to the fuel might reduce it to goo.

    Ouch. Its starting to seem like most of the parts that you can print, are just going to be interior parts. Which is actually very helpful just by itself. Interior parts are one of the primary types of parts that I'm always needing to replace. Although some of them are quite large, such as door panels. Plenty of them are small though.

    Really most of the parts I'd want to print are plastic. When it comes to metal... I don't know. Typically the metal parts can be had so cheaply that there really isn't much need for printing them. In Leno's case of course, he's dealing with a total lack of the ability to ever be able to buy the part.

    Its the plastic parts that tend to fail so often. Especially in the interiors. Well, here in Texas anyway. We've got brutal sun and combine that with normal wear and tear, and its hell on some of these interiors over the years. And interior parts get expensive fast.

  10. #10
    Engineer Marm's Avatar
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    Notice I said some chemicals. And it should have said "can act as solvents for some of the various materials". Some filaments are completely safe vs a petrochemical, some aren't. And you have to consider temps too. Printing an oil cap is probably a bad bad idea. But a fuel cap might hold up just fine, probably won't pass an emissions test though.
    But as mentioned, check thingiverse, there are many interior parts to be had, and if you check the parts guides lists (you are obviously more familiar with those than I am), you can probably find identical parts that span multiple models.

    But if you have the inclination, a cheap set of calipers and other measuring devices will get you 90% of the way to designing clone parts on your own. If you get good at it, set up a website that sells each design for a buck or two. Might as well recoup even more of your hard work.

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