Can You 3D Print Car Parts? How to Do It Like a Pro
Many people wonder whether you can 3D print a car or car parts effectively since it’s a very useful manufacturing method. This article will answer some questions about 3D printing car parts, and also walk you through some methods that experienced people do.
Before we get into how to 3D print car parts, let’s look at the general question of whether you can 3D print car parts at home, as well as whether you can 3D print a whole car.
Can You 3D Print Car Parts at Home? What Car Parts Can be 3D Printed?
Yes, you can 3D print some car parts from the comfort of your home. You may not be able to 3D print the whole car but there are some car parts that you can independently 3D print and can be assembled or joined to other parts of the car.
A user mentioned that they have printed replacement bodywork brackets for a BMW. They also mentioned that they have friends printing custom door knobs and accessories.
Many parts of Formula One cars are now 3D printed due to the complex curves achievable as they are expensive if bought from auto shops or online.
It is also possible to 3D print working engine parts of a car by using metal casting or metal additive manufacturing. Many engine parts are formed this way especially if they are for an old design that is off the market.
Here is a list of car parts that you can 3D print:
- Sunglasses Car Sun Visor Clip
- Bumper Fixing
- 10mm Automotive Body Trim Rivet
- Front Bumper License Plate Cap Inserts CRV Honda 2004
- Porsche Boxter & Cayman “hidden hitch” adapter for utility trailer
- Honda CRV 02-05 Rear Window Wiper Bridge
- Hyundai Elantra Vent Slide
- Wind Shield Clip For BMW Vehicles
- Smartphone Holder for Car
- Seatbelt Cover Renault Super5 R5 Renault5 Safe Belt
- Car Logos
A lot of the parts are usually accessories, but you can 3D print actual car parts with larger 3D printers.
You can also 3D print replica car models like the Tesla Model 3 and RC cars such as The Batmobile (1989) and the 1991 Mazda 787B.
Here’s a video showing a YouTuber 3D printing an RC car for the first time.
The list for 3D printing car parts is endless so you can check out other car models by searching on 3D printer file websites like Thingiverse or Cults.
The video below shows how a brake line clip was 3D printed which further shows that parts of a car can be 3D printed.
Most of the popular car brands that you know 3D print some of their car parts and accessories. When it comes to 3D printing car parts, BMW is the first name you’ll probably hear. They announced in 2018 that they have produced more than a million individual 3D printed car parts.
Their one millionth 3D printed car part is a window guide rail for the BMW i8 Roadster. It took the experts in the company about 5 days to complete the whole part and not long afterward, it was integrated into series production. Now BMW can produce 100 window guide rails in 24 hours.
Other car companies that 3D print their car parts include:
For car companies such as these to have 3D printed their car parts, this shows that 3D printing car parts are possible.
Jordan Payne, a YouTuber, was able to make a new logo for their Datsun 280z using their Creality Ender 3 with ABS filament for added heat resistance. He mentioned that he used a program called Fusion 360 as a result of its high-quality software.
You can watch the full video below to get more insight into how he was able to 3D print the car logo.
Can You 3D Print a Car?
No, you can’t 3D print every part of a car, but you can 3D print a significant amount of the car such as the car’s chassis, the body, and the interior structure of the vehicle. Other parts like the engine, battery, gears, and similar parts could have some 3D printed metal parts but not ever part can be 3D printed.
One of the biggest examples of a 3D printed car is the Strati car, the world’s first 3D printed car. It took 44 hours to 3D print and is created in one single piece to reduce the number of parts and increase the likelihood of printing success.
Here’s a video of the Strati car actually being test-driven.
A father who got rewarded with a new Aventador from Lamborghini 3D printed a replica of the Aventador with his son. It took them almost one year and a half but they were able to complete the project and print the car replica.
The father got a 3D printer worth $900 and also found a diagram of the car model online. They printed separate panels from durable plastic and soldered them together. Also, they used Nylon with Carbon Fiber filament to make the car’s interiors.
However, when they realized that they may not be able to 3D print movable parts such as wheels and small electrical parts, they purchased them online. After a lot of trial and error, they were able to create a replica of the Lamborghini’s Aventador car.
3D printers are good at printing out shapes and not so good at printing complex parts or components as they are made from a lot of different materials. This is why most acclaimed 3D printed cars don’t have all their parts 3D printed.
You can watch the video to see how the Aventador came out.
On the other hand, you can 3D print a half-size mock-up of a car using a hybrid technology such as a 3D printer and half robot. José Antonio who is the coordinator of the project stated that the model can be used to showcase the style and design of a car.
The system mixes 3D printing with a robot that allows the curving of materials since pure 3D printing systems can only manufacture small pieces.
You can watch the video below to learn more.
Many people believe that while a 3D printer may still improve, it cannot provide better methods of construction for critical car parts such as engines or tires, though some smaller car models create basic tires out of flexible TPU filament.
How to 3D Print & Make Car Parts
Now that you know that some car parts can be 3D printed, you probably want to know how the car parts can be 3D printed. It’s often easier to get started with a 3D scan of parts when printing car parts.
Most people often start by finding an existing car part design on platforms like Thingiverse or Cults, or by designing their own car parts or scanning an existing car part.
TeachingTech, a 3D printing YouTuber 3D printed a custom air box for their car, which is basically the filter that air passes through to let your car engine breathe.
The first step the user took was to move their airflow meter to create more space for the air box. He took some reference photos with a ruler in place to help his measurement so he can position the key features accurately in CAD.
He modeled it in CAD to the basic dimensions and then modeled up the two mating surfaces of the air box, designed to grip the rubber gasket of the panel filter.
He also designed a simple but robust feature for clamping the two halves together yet still removable without any tools.
The pattern was modeled to match the airflow meter that it needed to bolt to. Both halves of the engine box were designed to be printed without any support material and the finished parts came out well.
Here’s the video on how the air box was modeled and 3D printed.
Scanning parts can be tricky if you are doing it for the first time because it requires a little experience. You want to get some practice scanning more basic objects before you start scanning complex car parts.
It’s important to move your 3D scanner slowly so it can pick up the features and details of the part, as well as find new features relative to the location of the parts it has already scanned when rotating the part.
Due to the specifications of some scanners, they may not be able to accurately scan small features so you may have to accentuate these features so the scanner can find them.
Here is a video on how to 3D scan your car part and some of the scanners you can use to get a high-quality result so you can check it out.
The video below shows more explicitly how you can design and 3D print car parts.
How Much Does a 3D Printed Car Cost?
A 3D printed electric car called the LSEV costs $7,500 to produce and is fully 3D printed except for the chassis, tires, seats, and windows. The Strati car is known to cost between $18,000-$30,000 to originally produce, but they are no longer is business. The 3D printed Lamborghini costed about $25,000.
The cost of a 3D printed car is largely dependent on the materials used in building the car. It also depends on the volume of the car that is 3D printed.
If most parts of the car are 3D printed, the car will be relatively cheaper.
Best 3D Printed Car Models (Free)
The designer stunner2211 on Thingiverse has created a Car Gallery of some amazing 3D printed car models that you can download and 3D print yourself:
These are all downloadable for free, so definitely have a look.
Best 3D Printer for Car Parts
Now that we have established that some car parts can be 3D printed, let’s take a look at the best 3D printer to print them. The best 3D printers for car parts that I have found are the Creality Ender 3 V2 and the Anycubic Mega X.
They have been found to print high-quality and durable car parts with high precision and accuracy.
I wrote an article called 7 Best 3D Printers for Automotive Cars & Motorcycle Parts for more depth, but below are some quick choices that work well.
Creality Ender 3 V2
Here are some qualities that make the Creality Ender 3 V2 a go to for 3D printed car parts.
- Well assembled direct extruder/hot end
- Supports major files such as STL and OBJ
- Slicer software that can be pre-installed on the thumb drive
- Has a silent motherboard
- Has automatic bed leveling feature
- Quick heating hotbed
- Supports PLA, TPU, PETG, and ABS
- Quick and easy assemble
One of many amusing features of this 3D printer is that if there is any sudden electrical power failure or outage, printers can resume printing from the last layer, saving time and reducing waste.
You don’t have to start all over again as you can start right from where you stopped. Also, the voltage spike does not affect the printer as a result of its high and safe power supply.
For better performance, the printer comes with a silent motherboard which facilitates faster printing at lower noise levels. You can print your car parts in your home with minimal noise.
The Carborundum Glass Platform that comes with the Creality Ender 3 V2 contributes to the quick-heating hotbed feature. This helps print stick better to the plate and provides a smoothness for the first print layer.
Anycubic Mega X
As its name implies, the Anycubic Mega X comes in a large size and with high quality and durability. It is powerful and can work on a long stretch without breaking down.
Here are some of the notable qualities of the printer:
- Large Printing Volume and Size
- Dual X and Y Axes Dual Screw Rod Design
- Resume Printing Feature
- Powerful Extruder with Stable Rotation Speed
- 3D Printer Kits
- Powerful Extruder
- Strong Metal Frame
With the Anycubic Mega X, you can reload the filament with a single tap if it runs out. The 3D printer will turn on a smart alarm and automatically pause printing so you can resume from where you paused.
This means that you don’t have to start all over again if your filament runs out while printing.
You can also use TPU and PLA to get great print results.
A user mentioned that the printer came very close to being fully assembled and only took about 5 minutes to set up, and another 10-20 to tighten, level, and adjust to their liking. They said the part printed perfectly without much work at all.
They also said the printer is relatively quiet, easy to work with, the software is included, and there is a lot of online support.
A lot of users mentioned how easy it was to assemble the printer because it comes with so many spare parts and tools they sent with each printer, so you can open the box, assemble it and print something.
Best Filament for Car Parts
Car parts should be able to withstand heat so when 3D printing car parts, the material or filament used should not be the type that can melt easily under the sun or heat.
The best filament that I have found highly effective for car parts is Acrylonitrile Styrene Acrylate (ASA). It is well known for its high UV and heat resistance and can be used to produce functional parts for automotive applications.
Here are some of the qualities that make ASA the best filament for car parts.
- High UV and weather resistance
- Special matte and smooth finish
- High temperature resistance of about 95°C
- High water resistance
- High level of durability with resistance to impact and wear
You can get a spool of Polymaker ASA Filament from Amazon, a pretty popular brand known for its high quality. It’s currently rated 4.6/5.0 at time of writing with over 400 reviews.
Many users who used PLA+ switched over to this ASA and were surprised that a filament like this even existed. They specifically wanted to make things that could survive outside and in the heat of a car on a hot summer’s day.
Their PLA+ was warping in and outside of their car, and they didn’t have a lot of luck with PETG. They came across this filament in an online video of it being used in the inside of a car engine bay, and used as a shroud for an air filter which worked well.
One of the best things about ASA filament is just how easily it prints. The user didn’t have a heated enclosure and still experienced no issues with warping. They said it prints just like PLA but works as good as ABS (the less weather resistant version).
If you need a functional and durable filament with great heat resistance at a respectable price, you should definitely try out Polymaker ASA Filament from Amazon.
Another user who used this filament said that once they figured out ASA printing, it became easy for them to use. They also said it has less of a smell compared to ABS, and it’s stable inside a hot car environment.
Many other users have testified to how the ASA filament was easy to use for them.
Polycarbonate Filament (PC)
Polycarbonate Filament (PC) is another good option for car parts. Many users have described this filament as one of the best materials for automotive use.
It is suitable for demanding prototyping requirements, tools, and fixtures. It’s also suitable for the manufacturing of various types of mechanical equipment and electrical parts such as shields, insulating connectors, coil frames, etc.
The filament comes with great toughness, strength, and durability that car parts need to last well.
A user mentioned that they have tried out other filaments such as PLA and PETG but they could not survive the heat of their car. Polycarbonate has a glass transition temperature of around 110°C which is more than enough to withstand the heat within a car and even in direct sunlight.
One of the biggest pros of PC filament is that it actually prints fairly easily with the right 3D printer, and has a high heat resistance, strength, and durability.
You can get a spool of Polymaker Polycarbonate Filament from Amazon for a competitive price. It’s carefully winded during manufacturing to ensure there aren’t any tangling issues, and it’s dried and vacuum sealed to reduce moisture absorption.