3D printing can achieve just about anything these days, and it’s increasingly being used in car manufacturing. With the technology growing in leaps and bounds, entirely 3D-printed cars, homes, and even replacement body parts are becoming less sci-fi and more commonplace. A recent Australian endeavour, however, has found a rather vintage project for the futuristic machinery.
Long-time owner of the world’s only surviving pre-war Delage Type S, Stuart Murdoch has lovingly driven his antique race car around the local country Victorian streets for years, with nary a care in the world. That was until his engine kicked the bucket.
“We were out on a trial run, and all of a sudden, water started appearing out the exhaust pipe,” says Stuart, to ABC presenter Jon Faine. “And a decision had to be made weather it remained a museum piece or whether I bit the bullet and did what was necessary to get a new cylinder block made.”
Luckily for the iconic French machine, Stuart’s love for the car got the better of him, and he recruited a team of engineers to help him reconstruct the engine. Being the last of its kind, parts for the Delage had gone the way of the dodo. Repair would require entirely new pieces. No easy feat for any mechanic, on an engine of this type.
Mechanical engineer Grant Cowie and industrial designer Phillip Guilfoyle took to the task with enthusiasm, employing modern techniques with care, to the priceless machine. The cost of repairing the engine with traditional techniques of building a wooden block are not only expensive, but largely an exercise in trial and error. The team employed 3D printing technology with advanced laser scanning to reduce months’ worth of work to mere hours.
Once the laser scanning of the complex engine was completed, a 3D-printed sand mould was created and finally sent off to the local iron foundry for casting. The pieces were then assembled and finished by hand before the moment of truth arrived: the first turning over of the engine.
Relief swept through the room as the Type S kicked into life once more! And how did Stuart Murdoch feel about putting his faith into Cowie and Guilfoyle?
“Boldness be my friend” he said, rather poetically. “It is a considerable achievement for all those involved and, might I say, quite an achievement for Australian engineering.”
As antique parts become harder to find, and the conventional skills dwindle, restorers find it harder and more expensive to bring these relics back to life. The success of the restoration, and the advance of new technologies like these indicate a new hope for the Australian car industry, restorers like Grant Cowie, and car enthusiasts like Stuart Murdoch.