Is 3D printing of rare parts the future?

3d printing

While several brands have started manufacturing "heritage" parts, some items will only become more difficult to source as the years go by. Could 3D printing be the solution?

Words: Wilhelm Lutjeharms

Pictures: Supplied

Whether you're an individual or a company, restoring a car or a motorcycle can throw several, and continuous, curve balls.

It doesn’t come much more frustrating than not being able to find a certain part. The result could be that the whole project grinds to a halt for a long period until that part, or a few of them, can be found, sourced… or manufactured.

Depending on the type of vehicle that is being build, it could be necessary to import several parts. However, with import duties and expensive courier costs, the result can be an exorbitant amount of money for only a few small parts. 

Scanning 3D

Scanning and 3D printing have come a long way, and we chatted to Stiaan Swart of KD Marine Design to find out how easy (or difficult) it was to scan a part and to have a few of them manufactured.

“We have a hand-held 3D scanner which we can take on site. We scan the part that needs to be manufactured or we scan the area, car, or area of the car where the part should fit. During such a scan procedure the scanner is accurate up to 0.25 mm. 

“If it is a large project or part, it is easier if we are on site, but otherwise a part can be simply delivered to us and we can attend to it. We are currently busy with the large mine lorries in Saldanha, and for such a project we obviously travel to the site.


“There is also the option of giving us the part and then we'll put it on a turn table and have it scanned. We can then either give the client the scanned file, or we can supply an engineering drawing. From there the client can take it to a machine/CNC shop and have it made, whether from metal or plastic.”

As the scanning of the part(s) is charged at R1 000 and hour, it is a small price to pay if you take into account how much scanning can be done within an hour. KD Marine Design has, for example, been manufacturing custom-made skid plates for some Subaru production cars. It entailed removing some of the soft plastic parts at the front of the car and then scanning the front and underside of the vehicle. In that particular case the scanning took less than an hour. 

“We can do some plastic printing at our facility in Cape Town, otherwise we have a number of 3D printing companies and CNC manufacturing companies we can recommend. If you choose the correct plastics, you can manufacture very sturdy parts.”

Let us know what you think about 3D printing as a solution to your rare parts problem!

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