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Jay Leno uses 3D printer to make classic car parts

Most people recognize Jay Leno as the host of “The Tonight Show” on NBC, you know, the funny guy with the big chin. But Jay Leno also has an affinity for classic cars, which he chronicles at JayLenosGarage, and he’s touting 3D printers for their use in printing classic car parts.

Why print car parts?

Not everyone can afford a top-notch printer capable of printing large enough parts out of various materials. Until large scale 3D printers are more affordable it’s certainly more cost effective to pick up car parts at the local auto parts store. The problem is that rare cars often have to have parts recreated by machinists due to their lack of prevalence. As Leno explains, there’s always the risk that the part won’t come back from the machinist in the exact specifications or that the specs you took were incorrect. With 3D printing you can take a part, say a door handle, and reproduce it exactly. Or, if a part is missing something you can fill this in with the computer model prior to printing.

The process

Leno starts by taking 3D scans of the parts that he needs rather than starting from scratch on a computer model. The 3D scanner can measure around 50,000 points per second at a density of 160,000 (dpi) creating a very detailed model. Once the scan is complete he sends it to a 3D printer and makes an exact copy of the part in plastic. Once that is completed he sends the plastic part out to be created into a mold. He says that a small part might take 5 hours to create whereas a larger, more detailed part has taken him 33 hours to print.

The tools

NextEngine 3D Scanner ($2,995) and Dimension uPrint Personal Printer (under $15,000, Dimension also leases starting at $560 month).

In the future, as 3D printer technology becomes more cost effective and prevalent, it will likely be worthwhile to introduce 3D printing into auto and metalworking classes at the high school and collegiate level.

If you could print anything with a 3D printer, what would it be? Let us know in the comments.

Posted in Blog.

One Response

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  1. AB says

    I would print a new face mask for a batting helmet. Can they make it strong?

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