As 3D printing technology grows more popular, hobbyists and automotive industry leaders alike are starting to 3D print car parts as an alternative to expensive repairs and manufacturing.
This may seem unbelievable to people outside of the 3D printing space, but it is true. 3D printers can create all kinds of car parts, and they work just as well as traditionally manufactured parts.
There are plenty of reasons why people do this. They may want to personalize their car, make their car lighter, or just replace a part quickly without needing to pay an excessive amount for it.
For people who want to get into it, it is a lot easier than it looks.
Table of ContentsShow
What Kind of Parts Can You Make With 3D Printers?
There are several types of parts that you can use 3D printing to manufacture:
- Cosmetic customization (rear-view mirrors, cup holders, custom frames)
- Small parts (lids, valves, specialized parts)
- Larger parts (grills, dashboards)
While you can make powerful parts with 3D printing (like with carbon fiber), it is not recommended for making internal car parts. These parts must deal with excessive heat or pressure and require a specialized manufacturing process.
So long as you keep the part, your intended material, and what that part is used for in mind, the sky is the limit as far as what you can create.
What Kinds of 3D Printers Are Best for 3D Printing Car Parts?
When 3D printing car parts, the ideal printer can vary depending on what you are trying to print.
For most things, an inexpensive basic printer is fine. Plenty of car parts are small and simple and should not need a heavy-duty machine to do the lifting.
If you plan on printing more complex parts or want intricate engravings on your customized parts, you may want to use a higher-end model that can handle that.
What Materials Should You Use?
There are plenty of materials you can use to 3D print your car parts, but the rule of thumb is they should be durable, lightweight, and flexible.
A few standout materials are:
- TPU (shock-absorbent, flexible, and durable)
- Polypropylene (great for airflow and fluid systems)
- Nylon PA11 (great if you are worried about sustainability)
- Polyamide 6 (heat resistant)
What material you use depends entirely on what part you want to make, so always do your due diligence and research what materials work best for each part before you start printing.
How Do You Go About 3D Printing Car Parts?
3D printing car parts seems complex, but when you get down to it, it is a simple process that only requires a few steps.
Make or Find a Scale Model
This is the most important step of the entire process. A high-quality 3D printed car part relies on using the proper material and creating it from a good model.
You can set up your scale model in one of two ways. You can make the model yourself using a 3D modeler or find a model online. If you are not confident in your 3D modeling skills, it may be best to find an online model rather than make it yourself.
Many websites offer 3D models for parts that you can download and use with your 3D printer. Make sure the model is from a reputable source for the best results.
Pick Your Material
After picking out your model, the next step is to pick what material you want to use. This will depend entirely on what part you are making and your specific needs.
Remember, materials are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Make sure the material you choose matches your part’s use (heat resistance or flexibility, for example). If you make a part with the wrong material and install it, it can break or damage your car.
Also, keep in mind that just because you can theoretically make engine parts with 3D printing does not mean that you should.
Print the Part
After you have your model and material, it is time to make your part. Make sure the parameters are set the way you want them and double-check everything before printing. Follow the instructions based on your specific printer.
Once your part is printed, it is time to add any finishing touches. This is when you paint any small details, like numbers on a knob, or coat the part in another material for a better finish.
You should also use this time to check over the part and make sure everything is up to standard. If there are any defects or issues with the part, you will need to start over.
Install the Part
After printing the part, it is time to install it. This is simple for a part like a cup holder or knob — just pop it in and see if it fits.
If you 3D printed a part like a grill or a dashboard, try going on a test drive first and see how it holds up under a stress test. If it looks like it is not holding up well, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
What if You Don’t Want to Do It Yourself?
Sometimes 3D printing car parts is not feasible for everyone. A person may want to 3D print a part, but they do not have access to a printer or are not confident in their 3D modeling skills.
In this case, you may want to consider hiring a business that specializes in 3D printing car parts. Be sure to check the business’ rates, selection, and reviews before committing.
3D printing car parts is an easy way to customize and repair your car without breaking the bank. With the right model, materials, and plenty of patience, 3D printing your own parts is a reliable way to take care of your car and make it your own.
There are no limits to what can be done with 3D printing, whether you do it yourself or hire someone else to make the parts for you.