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I was watching CBS News on TV this morning. It drew my full attention. They did a story on the latest 3-D printer. It made the earlier ones compared with this new one look like Fred Flintstone’s car compared with a Lamborghini.

It’s very fast. It prints hard and soft materials. It can print cushioning parts with air spaces molded in. It even prints complex parts with moving pieces incorporated!

It’s the 3-D printer baby of Chemist Joe DeSimone, called the M1.
Here’s an excerpt from the CBS News article I’ve linked below.

“How is this technology being looked upon in that 3-D printing community?” Blackstone asked.

“They walked up to the industry and dropped a grenade and walked away,” Legacy Effects lead systems engineer Jason Lopes said.

Will this revolutionize the way car parts are made, ordered, and stocked?
P.S Maybe one of you can find a video of the show. I don’t have the PC firepower.

There are newer printers coming online with greater capacities and materials for printing, as for the ones now there are limitations based on the strength of the printed items, this will only improve as the years go on, great future for the technology. Wanting more skeleton keys for my house as blanks are no longer being produced,

3D printers for routine auto part replacement seems similar to 1950’s predictions of flying cars and 2010’s predictions of totally self driving cars. Things which are possible, but technologies unlikely to become commonplace.

“3D printers for routine auto part replacement seems similar to 1950’s predictions of flying cars and 2010’s predictions of totally self driving cars. Things which are possible, but technologies unlikely to become commonplace.”

Oh, I don’t know George… I grew up with a standard-8 movie camera. I’d take the exposed 3 minute silent film and mail it to Kodak in NY for processing and get it back a couple weeks later.

Now, whether I wanted it or not, the phone I carry in my pocket records video and audio and it’s ready instantly.

You could be right, but the times, they are a changing. We’ll see…

I had a client a few years back, who’s husband made 3D printers. I had heard the term but had no idea what it was.
One day when I was there, she mentioned that her husband was working to make parts on a 3D printer in the other side of the barn. I went over to investigate and he explained all the technology to me. Quite fascinating to say the least. He was in the process of using one printer to make the gears for the next printer.
In the short time I was there it made a two step gear that could have been put right into the next machine with only minimal cleanup of the finished product.
I have no idea how much time was spent in loading the data for all the specifications though ( length height, number of teeth, etc… I’m sure that took some time.

I think it is amazing, but will not be available in the near future at an expense we could afford.

I can see the day though when you will place a plastic bracket into a machine the size of a microwave, it will measure everything by laser and the part will be printed while you wait.

Need a new gas cap, oil filler cap,…why stock them just punch in the part number and it is made while you wait.

If memory serves me right, he also had a laser table that could cut such precise pieces.
I remember him showing me a block of wood that had such an intricate pattern carved into it that it would have taken an expert carver weeks to carve such minute detail.


I could see many many parts being made using the current technology right now. Lots of plastic parts could be reproduced with the ABS plastic. Just takes vision and capital to set one up in your warehouse. Adding the better materials would be the upgrade.

There’s no question in my mind that 3D printers will become a normal part of the car manufacturing stable of technologies, it’s only a matter of when and how. The technology is progressing quickly and is still in its infancy.

I miss getting all the “trade” magazines I used to get years ago such as “Design News” and others that published technical articles about the forefront of various technologies. There’s a lot on the forefront out there that the public is totally unaware of. I believe the state of this 3D printing technology is one of those things.

3D printers for routine auto part replacement seems similar to 1950's predictions of flying cars and 2010's predictions of totally self driving cars. Things which are possible, but technologies unlikely to become commonplace.

Making an airplane that flies well is relatively easy. Making a car that drives well is similarly easy. Making a car that flies well… .Now that’s hard. You might be interested in Terrafugia, though - they’ve gotten a prototype to the road/flight test stage. But, it’s still a lousy car and a lousy airplane that costs more than you’d pay to get a good car and a good airplane as separate purchases.

Self-driving cars, on the other hand… They’re pretty close to right around the corner, and the implications to the economy are frankly scary as hell.

As a licensed pilot, I don’t think 90% of drivers are interested in the study (physics, aeromedical, meteorology) that getting licensed would require. Also, the “weld the hood shut and call AAA if the car breaks down” mentality wouldn’t fly (pardon the pun) up in the air. And as to liability–we’ve got irate motorists who believe it’s the mfr’s fault for not having a low oil light…I’d hate to have them up above me!

I suppose a 3-D printer could make plastic parts that can be used as a plug for investment casting of a metal part.
But for mass production, well, let’s just remember that the photocopy machine has not rendered the offset printing press obsolete and using 3-D printers to mass produce things makes as much sense as using a photocopier to publish The New York Times.

I saw a science show recently where some engineering group had developed a system wherein a welding setup run by a robot could go from point to point to point and build a three dimensional complex metal structure from the ground up. They were using it to build a bridge. I was enthralled watching this thing quickly build a real (albeit small) bridge.

I’ve seen numerous extremely high speed point-to-point robotic devices being used for various applications. Printed wiring board makers use them to test extremely dense multilayer boards, the test probes operating too fast to see.

I have no doubt that these technologies will merge to create mass manufacturing systems that can create complex parts of metals from the ground up.

3D printers have been around for decades. Back in the 80’s they were very crude devices and mainly used for prototyping parts made of plastic. Now different materials and different methods have made them a very desirable piece of every manufacturer. Earlier models started at $20,000…today the starting prices is under $500.

Like any new technology, it will be more cost effective when it’s been on the market for awhile.

Look how much the first VCRs were…a weeks wages at least. Now you can buy a new DVD player for a half days wages or less.

What I saw made was a solid part that looked to me to be of as good or better quality as a part manufactured in a factory.
Not that I’m looking forward to the new technology…I hate technology, but I have to put up with it. That’s why I own the simplest flip phone.
I’m not getting a smart phone until they are smart enough to let me know My zippers Down!!!


Automotive parts 3D printed from titanium-

Affordable 3D metal printers using laser sintering on the horizon-

Gotta agree with BLE. Nothing against technology but we’ve been hearing this stuff for years. Email was to eliminate paper. Huh, there’s more paper now than before because there is more stuff to print. So rather we have both the digital and the paper files now instead of just paper. Advantages to both that everyone uses. It’ll be a while before I trust a printed ball joint instead of a cast one with particular alloys. We should view the 3D printer as a supplement and aid rather than a replacement for mass production of quality parts in my view. Great for plastics or one-offs or proto-types but it’ll be many years before we are buying printed fenders instead of mass produced steel ones in a press at so many a minute.

Dreamers like to dream about flying cars and robots cutting the grass and printing a new car overnight but we need to stay a little grounded in reality.

@meanjoe75fan Supposedly Terrafugia’s next flying car will be autonomous in the air. You’ll punch in where you want to and it will fly you there. I imagine it might take awhile to get that idea past the FAA, but if they could convince the DMV to let a semi drive itself…

It all depends on the medium being used for the final product.
EXACTLY like today’s factory produced auto parts , you can buy cheap ones, expesive ones, high or low quality ones etc.
What they’re made of varies greatly and is ofted very difficult to prove out.
Grade 8 steel and brass bushings ? or pean cast metal and plastic ? Two tie rod ends can visually look the same but be VERY different internally.
so . .
3D printing of a replacement part WILL be exactly as variable.

I believe that 3-D printing technology will mostly be used for small runs or prototypes, just like a photocopier is the best printer for a few dozen or hundred copies, but when the job demands hundreds of thousands of copies, it’s worth making plates and setting up an offset press to do the job.
I think the existing mass production methods will still have their place in mass production. The parts printers will have their place in small runs, custom one-offs, and possibly the on-demand production of a no longer in stock part for an old car.

As far as flying cars are concerned, I think of a remark made about street-dirt motorcycles. “On the highway, it feels like you are on a dirt bike and on the trail, it feels like you are on a street bike”. Sometimes when you try to make something do everything, it does nothing well.

It takes tens of thousands of dollars for larger molds and/or dies to be made and proofed for molding and stamping. Setup costs can also be expensive for every run, and preventative maintenance (sharpening tooling, cleaning dies, etc.) add to the costs. If much of it can be done on a computer, I’m betting it’ll reduce costs substantially, especially if it can be applied to a few hundred parts. I’m betting that this technology will become commonplace in the manufacturing industry faster than we imagine. I’m betting that manufacturing demands will “pull” development of the technology along.

I think 3d printing technology, if it ever advances to the point where metal can be printed to the same strength as cast/forged, will be a godsend to people who like to keep older cars.

There are a lot of parts on my 1993 MR2 that are no longer obtainable. I have to go diving in junkyards to find them, or figure out how to make a workaround. That makes me really wonder how guys who keep much older cars manage to find parts. I’d love to be able to punch up the part model and print myself a copy.