Automotive Replacement Parts

Hi folks. I’m, Molly.


I’m a new brain on the team at Thingsmiths and excited to contribute an occasional blog post to Makerthoughts. 


As you’ll remember from a few posts back, our teammate Steve was satisfied with his new-to-him vehicle purchase but needed to make one small adjustment. The passenger-side, front bumper was missing an insert piece. We sized up the part and determined we could easily print a replica using a scan of the driver-side insert.  Here’s a snapshot for our process:


•       3D scan part and clean up scan data – Check.


•       Choose appropriate material – Since Steve was coating the parts and they weren't a performance-critical part, we had some flexibility with what we could use. We chose our Standard Plastic for this purpose.


3D Printed Part and Original Part

•       Print using our FDM Technology – One of the perceived obstacles of this project was ensuring the part could sustain impact from daily driving and withstand Michigan’s four beautiful, occasionally tempestuous, seasons. In order to promote durability and integrity, we printed the piece with a dense infill in a rectilinear pattern. While not as strong as injection molding, it runs a pretty close second and works great for this particular replacement part.

3D Printed Car Component

•       Post printing – Once all support material was removed and the piece was sanded down it was ready for a coat of auto paint.  I tried talking Steve into jazzing up his new vehicle, but for some reason he didn’t share the same enthusiasm. Although he is a dedicated University of Michigan fan, he wasn’t as keen on the idea of sporting blue and gold M’s across the front of his new car. He opted for a sleek, black paint to match the exterior trim instead – and I admit it looks pretty sharp. Once the parts were dry he tested them for dimensional accuracy.


•       Install! The final results after permanent installation indicated a successful project. Steve’s car is back on the road demonstrating the print’s durability.


The presence of a duplicate piece in this scenario as well as the function of the part made this an ideal project for a 3D printed replacement. 3D printing is the ideal solution for scenarios in which the part may no longer be manufactured (classic cars anyone?) or in which the speed and cost efficiency of 3D printing exceeds traditional manufacturing methods.

Car with 3D Printed Component Added


Perhaps most significantly, in a world of mass-manufactured products and homogenous styles, 3D printing offers the element of personalization and customization at an affordable price. While Steve didn’t take any of my suggestions in this case (maybe he's a secret Spartan), the options for color, design, emblems and logos are endless. We're excited to see what you'll come up with. #Goblue