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3D printing aids restoration of early 20th century sports car

08 September 2015

The latest 3D printing technology has helped to restore an historic French sports car back to its former glory, with help from UK additive manufacturing specialist, KW Special Projects and sister company, KW Motorsport, a motorsport and historic car engineering specialist.

When faced with only a faded black and white photo of a missing gear selector housing, engineers from the Brackley-based company used their additive manufacturing (AM) capabilities and high performance engineering experience to design and manufacture the missing parts.

The vehicle in question – a 1927 Amilcar C6 – employed an extended selector housing, which had been adapted from the original car. The reasons for this original adaption are unclear, but it was possibly to make driving more comfortable for the owner at the time. KWSP managing director, Kieron Slater takes up the story:

“This was a unique project that demanded not only technical know-how of the latest AM techniques, but also creativity and intuition. Using AM instead of conventional manufacturing methods, our engineers were able to design and make parts quickly and cost effectively using 3D printing technology.

"This approach enabled us to fit a printed prototype into the actual vehicle to ensure it met with the design brief, fitted perfectly into the cockpit and also gained the owner’s approval.

“Using Solidworks CAD software, we converted the scan data into useful CAD files that gave us the mechanical interfaces and geometry to begin designing the new cover. Because the original castings were manufactured from handmade patterns, there are not many exact features within the cover that can be predicted.

“Also, the new ergonomic position of the gearshift via the remote linkage was not easy to predict, so we not only had to reverse engineer the casing, but also its installation in the car and the hard objects such as the dash bulkhead and steering wheel in order to get the positioning correct.” 

This approach, using a mixture of CAD design, 3D printing and traditional aluminium casting of the final part, would previously have been costly to deliver using conventional methods as well as being risky and expensive to prototype.

KW Special Projects (KWSP) specialises in digital fabrication. Started by Kieron Salter, founder and MD of KW Motorsport, the company is based in Brackley, also home to the F1 team, Mercedes AMG Petronas’ facilities, and thus at the heart of the UK’s thriving Motorsport Valley. It is able to facilitate large projects, including design engineering, on site assembly, testing, R&D and commissioning for sectors such as motorsport, automotive, aerospace and healthcare.

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