Porsche turns to 3D printing to keep old cars running

Watch any David Attenborough nature documentary and you’ll see a wide variety of animal parenting behavior. Some creatures abandon their young at the egg stage, while others remain connected for generations. Car companies are no different. Some cease support with each new model, while others maintain databases and warehouses for decades.

Use your best Attenborough voice for Porsche then, which not only has a catalog of used parts for classic models going all the way back to the 1948 Porsche 356 and up through the 2006 Carrera GT, but is recreating the parts it doesn’t have. And the next stage of Porsche’s parts evolution is all about 3D printing.

Porsche Classic started as a restoration service in Stuttgart, Germany, in 2007 and expanded to the United States in 2016. Today there are five partnered dealerships with Porsche Classic, all ready to mine a collection of more than 52,000 spare Porsche parts to keep your vintage car on the road. That seems like a lot, but Porsche says more than 70 percent of all Porsches ever built are still driving, and that’s going to require a bigger boat (of parts).

crank arm for a Porsche 964
crank arm for a Porsche 964 Porsche Classics
filler cap seal for a Porsche 959
filler cap seal for a Porsche 959 Porsche Classics

3D printed Porsche 911 speedster spare part
3D printed Porsche 911 speedster spare part Porsche Classics
3D printed 356b and 356c part
3D printed 356b and 356c part Porsche Classics

To solve the problem of a pending old-parts shortage, Porsche Classic is turning to new technology. Small batches and even one-offs can be manufactured using various forms of additive manufacturing, more commonly known as 3D printing. Porsche says that the use of 3D printing and selective laser melting—another rapid prototyping technology in which powdered metal is built up by melting it in thin layers by laser to create a solid piece—allow for the recreation of rare and out-of-stock pieces, like the clutch release lever for a 1-of-292 Porsche 959.

Porsche checks these printed steel and plastic pieces for fitment and durability (including fuel, heat, and light resistance) in both destructive testing and active driving before declaring them acceptable quality to go to the public, and says in many cases the printed parts exceed the standards of the originals. Initial feedback from customers is thus far positive, and Porsche plans to expand from its current offering of nine part numbers to an increased catalog.

The current Porsche Classic parts catalog and partner list can be found here.

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