You’d have had to have been living under an especially dense, hype-proof rock to have been unaware of the staggering advances made in the field of plastic, or 3D, printing in recent years. A technology which was until very recently the stuff of theory and wild ambition hasn’t merely been perfected, it has been mass marketed and released to the world – which is why we have one.
It’s not that hard to grasp the worth of a 3D printer for a company like Retropower. There’s very little in terms of ‘off the shelf’ parts supply for our projects as the majority of our work is completely bespoke in nature, which in turn has (traditionally at least) presented us with something of a poser when it has come to developing interior parts, the kind produced on-mass by injection moulding by your average OEM.
Lacking the resources of the likes of Nissan, Ford or VW, Retropower staff have traditionally had to get creative when it comes to creative bespoke interior fixings, but the addition of a basic 3D printer some years ago, a Creality CR-10 S4, has changed all that. While unsuited for high-stress, safety critical components found under and within our builds, 3D printed, PETG with chopped carbon fibre reinforcement is ideal for interior fixtures and fittings, and we can make them all to precise settings on a build-by-build basis. The custom Life Racing keypad in the centre console of our Chevette rally car build is a case in point.
There’s more; the 400x400x400mm build volume and 0.4mm nozzle of the CR-10 S4 means it can be used to produce ‘mock-up’ parts, the kind we’d have had to have rendered in steel a few years ago. The steering rack mount shown here is a good example, and while patently too weak to ever actually see service within the Mk1 Golf project it’s associated with, it does enable us to gauge precisely whether or not the rack in question (actually an OEM part from an early ’90s Toyota Starlet) is suitable for the task envisioned. It is, and as a result we’ll soon have the ‘real McCoy’ rendered in billet alloy.
Actually ensuring that the parts themselves come out looking the way we envisioned is something that’s become far easier via the use of Autodesk Fusion, our CAD system (one we also rely upon for our plasma cutter). It works in conjunction with Cura, a G-Coding system developed to plot the tool pattern required for any 3D printing task, and it can do so with remarkable speed and efficiency – so much so that the process can be completed in as little as 2 minutes. This done, we can leave the 3D printer to its task for a number of hours while we get on with other, more pressing tasks.