HOW 3-D PRINTING WORKS
Why 3-D printing will help every restorer in every way
Those frustrated by the increasingly Arthurian search for elusive spare parts might be encouraged by the move towards the mainstream of 3D printing.the technology itself has been around for long enough – nearly 30 years – but it’s only now that more accessible machines and materials are available that its use is widening.
However if you’re hoping to knock up some obscure carb rubbers or the like on a Maplin 3D machine, we’re not quite there yet.the materials used in domestic and even low-end to mid-range commercial printers are simply not up to making items that could withstand the rigours of being fitted to an actual motorcycle.too brittle and unable to withstand heat, the most you could hope to make is a mess.
That isn’t to say that 3D printing isn’t proving very useful in pattern making and prototyping.and that’s where the home user could look to the tech too. Just two of the fans of the emerging technology are Henry Rivers-fletcher of Oxford Products and Steve Panter of Allens Performance.
Henry says: “We made the investment in a 3D printer to help with prototyping
and to make patterns we can take to our manufacturers. 3D printing speeds up the product development process no end.as well as working on shapes and designs we can go as far as making working prototypes for products such as heated grips.”
Oxford Products investment in the technology runs to tens of thousands of pounds but that still doesn’t put the firm in the 3D printing production bracket. “For that you need to spend half a million pounds at today’s prices,” says Henry.
It isn’t just the cost of the printers either, consumables are expensive too.anyone who’s ever had their hat nailed firmly on for inkjet cartridges will draw some consolation from Henry’s revelation that “we can use £80-worth of material just to make a single prototype handlebar grip”.
There are 3D printing specialists out there printing in everything from nylon to gold but even armed with computer-aided design drawings you will still struggle to find someone to make sufficiently robust one-off parts at an affordable price.
“If you have the money you can do it today.things like engine covers are possible now but you wouldn’t do structural because of the materials and the effect the process has on them,” says Henry.
Up country in Nottingham, Steve Panter of Allens Performance is a relatively long-term advocate of 3D printing and the useful things it can do. He has his own printer, assembled from a kit, on which he prints such things as patterns and moulds for the bespoke items required to complete some of the carb kits his company offers.
“I view my printer as being a sort of basic Cnc-machine. It runs on G-code, a commonly used numerical control programming language.the hardest part is learning CAD [computer-aided design] and the techniques for reverse engineering, for example, a carb inlet tract. However once you have it’s possible to make all kinds of patterns and moulds,” says Steve. He confirms that the biggest problem at the moment is the materials used and the process, particularly at the lower end of the 3D printing market. “PLA [polyactic acid] plastic media, a commonly used consumable in 3D printers is biodegradable so even water will attack it. Certainly it’s no use itself for making something you might actually use structurally. However you can do this…” Steve shows us a pattern he printed from which a Guzzi inlet tract could be cast in aluminium then shows us the finished articles pre and postmachining. He’s also found the 3D printing process useful for making formers which he used to press some steel carb tops, the material proving resilient enough to withstand that level of abuse.
So don’t throw out those knackered old parts just yet.this rapidly evolving technology may soon be the answer to making new replacements.
“Mmmm... this cheese takes longer than I thought
Above: Oxford products Below: carb top experiment