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Old 12-10-2014, 02:41 PM   #1 (permalink)
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I'm making custom car parts with a 3d printer

Darin mentioned you guys would be interested in this, so I figured I'd put it up and share some of the fun I've been having. For the past couple of weeks, I've been messing around with a 3d printer that I am borrowing from BenNelson. He was lucky enough to win it in an instructables contest for his DIY EV motorcycle write up. While you can make all sorts of 3d things (so much junk out there), I am using it to make custom car parts.

The first project I've been working on is reviving a product line that I had quite a few years back. I used to make phenolic intake manifold insulators as a performance product for Tercels and Paseos.

The insulator goes between the (aluminum) intake manifold and the head. It keeps the manifold cool and thus keeps the intake air charge cooler for a boost in horsepower that I had measured at just over 4%. Combine that with a smaller throttle body insulator and the gains came just about to 5%. Not bad for a simple bolt on part.

However, these insulators were a big pain to make. The intake manifold insulators took nearly 2 hours to hand carve, and the throttle body insulators took an hour or so. Time became more valuable than money and I stopped making them about 6 years ago.

I've had enough guys bug me over the years to know there is still some interest, and I like to play around. So, I looked into alternative methods of making these insulators. What I found was actually a better material, urethane. It holds up to engine temps and insulates twice as good as the phenolic material I was using. However, it was a two part liquid material, so I would need a mold. I considered using a router to create a mold out of wood or plastic, but nothing ever came of it.

Now, enter the 3d printer. This should allow me to just print a mold! I am a mechanical designer by profession, so I work with 3d software all day long. Drawing up a mold is no big deal. So, I've been learning the 3d printing side of things.

Here is the first mold I made off the printer. It is a throttle body insulator mold.

It didn't work out so great. I don't think I sprayed enough mold release on the little pegs and it bonded to the urethane. I got it out as you can see, but the mold was shot.

The next version I just printed out a few days ago and tried for the first time last night. I sprayed it down good with mold release and also increased the draft angle on the pegs to make it come out easier. That did the trick, and I got a good part.

I do eventually plan on getting around to some eco-minded mods with the printer.

Current project: A better alternator delete
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