It’s a situation we’ve all been in. You own a rare Porsche 959 and it needs a new clutch release lever. Just 292 959s were ever sold, so demand for components is a bit low and Porsche isn’t keen on spending money on all the tooling required to remanufacture the part.
Porsche’s classic vehicles division, Porsche Classic, already stocks 52,000 parts, but it says it does get requests for bits which are no longer available. Creating these parts would be economically unviable.
However, 3D printing could well be the answer. Porsche Classic has developed a 3D printing process that can produce replica parts to their original specifications without the need for expensive tooling.
Laser melting – a type of 3D printing using lasers and thin layers of metal powder – can create the aforementioned clutch release level for a Porsche 959.
“To manufacture the release lever, a layer of powdery tool steel less than 0.1 millimetres thick is applied to a processing plate in a computerised process,” explains Porsche. “In an inert atmosphere, a high-energy light beam then melts the powder in the desired locations to create a steel layer. Thus, the complete three-dimensional component is produced, layer by layer.
“Both the pressure test with a load of almost three tonnes and the subsequent tomographic examination for internal faults were passed by the printed release lever with flying colours. The practical tests with the lever installed in a test vehicle and extensive driving tests confirm the impeccable quality and function of the component.”
Get it? No, us neither, but it sounds pretty cool. Because of the positive outcome of Porsche Classic’s 959 clutch release lever 3D experiment, the company is currently manufacturing eight other parts using 3D printing. These include steel and alloy parts made using the laser melting process, as well as plastic components manufactured using a ‘selective laser sintering’ printer.
A further 20 parts are expected to be trialled using 3D printing, with intentions to offer them on demand if and when required.