HOW 3-D PRINT­ING WORKS

Why 3-D print­ing will help ev­ery re­storer in ev­ery way

Practical Sportsbikes (UK) - - Contents - Words: Alan See­ley Pic­tures: Al Sa­tian

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

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