3D Printing an Aston Martin

3D Printing & Imaging Cars Workshop


Interview by Yahea Abdulla

We recently heard about a Solidoodler in Auckland, New Zealand, named Ivan Sentch, who’s building an entire car from scratch with the help of his Solidoodle, 2nd Gen 3D printer. When we saw photos of his project in progress, it was a bit hard to believe that this was his first time using 3D printing or that anyone would undertake something so massive with a desktop 3D printer. Leave it to one of our users to baffle our minds. We’re not sure if it’s insane, brilliant or both, but it’s certainly impressive.

Ivan was gracious enough to answer our questions regarding his project via email. We’ve posted his responses in a Q&A format below. You can also find more pics of what he’s completed so far at the bottom of the page.

Q: How long have you been 3D printing?
A: Since January this year.

Q: What do family and friends think about this?
A: My brothers think I’m mad but, after the last one I did, at least they believe I will pull it off. Friends either don’t grasp the enormity of the project, or the ones that do are in awe of me even attempting it.

Q: Did you learn on a Solidoodle or do you have previous experience 3D printing?
A: No previous experience–not even remotely related. The printer arrived around about Christmas and I’ve been learning from scratch since then.

Q: I saw on your blog that you mentioned this is not your first replica. Did you use a mold for your previous car as well? Any 3D printing there?
A: No, the last one was more a kit car than a replica, i.e., it was a kit someone made to go over an exiting donor car, relatively simple compared to this project in which I will need to make both the body and chassis myself.

Q: You’re certainly not a novice, looking at your work. What’s your professional background? Do you use design and 3D printing in your professional life?
A: No, I’m an absolute noob, but I learn quickly — I’m a programmer (well, I now manage a small team of programmers but I still rather be doing the programming work … but I’ve been exposed to CAD since school age and I’ve been using it at a hobby level for the last 15 years but rarely 3D models and never at this level of complexity.

Q: This is one of the largest projects we’ve seen using a desktop 3D printer. Is this an extreme hobby or professional project? What’s your motivation?
A: The project has been on my mind for the last 6 years, I would have started it earlier but I’ve recently had kids (3 years and 1 year) so I had to put these sort of time-consuming project-type hobbies on hold. But in saying that, the printing itself isn’t very time-consuming (click a few buttons to kick one off before I go to work and another one off before I go to bed) and preparing the next prints only takes a couple of hours a week–it’s just really the sanding of the printed parts before I glue them together that is time-consuming (and dreadfully boring).

This sort of project is not uncommon, but people usually use get the plug CNC-cut out of foam. I was told to expect $12K to $15K NZD for a CNC-cut plug, which nearly killed the project idea but, somehow, I had the thought to look into 3D printing as an alternative and, after researching it, it was only going to cost me $2K in plastic and the cost of the printer, which I can use for other things like making a replica dash and what not.

Also, with printing, I could do the doors, bonnet, boot, dash as separate plugs, which will make a better (or at least easier) body shell.

Q: What 3D printing and design software did you use for CAD, slicing, printing, etc.?
A: I’m using Autodesk 3DS Max for the slicing, I used AllyCad (just a free simple CAD program) to print out the MDF shapes on paper, it was just easier with this than with 3DS Max.

Q: How many prints on your SD2 will it take once your entire plug is complete to make a mold from?
A: The prints are for a plug from which I’ll take a mold (using fiberglass), so the total prints for the plug is about 500 times, each containing on average of five 100 mm x 100 mm sections.

Q: I see you actually started on Dec. 25, 2012. How far along are you on completing the plug to date? You document it very nicely in your blog updates.
A: I’ve only 28% of the body left to print and the dash. I like to measure progress in m², all up there is 18.5m² to print (boot: 1m², bonnet: 1.5m², door 1.5m² (x2), dash: 2m² and the body: 11m², a 1kg spool does 0.26m² and I use 2x of these a week on average. So I’ve printed 13.42 m² all up so far.

I should point out that is just the printing, there will me endless months of work once it’s all assembled before I can take a mold (applying auto filler, sanding, repeat until it’s all true then sanding from 400 to 600 to 1000 grit sand paper until it has a glassy finish then applying mold prep and sanding with 1000 again).

Q: Anything on 3D printing or this project you’d like me to mention?
A: A common question I get asked is why I chose a normal Aston Martin DB4 over the more famous DB5 or the more famous and valuable DB4 Zagato (or any number of possibilities for that matter). I like old cars but most of the ones I like were just 2-seaters and, now with the kids, I just can’t use it (my GTO kit hardly gets used any more). So I went with an old Aston Martin (2+2 seats) because they are just very, very cool, and a DB4 because I just like the look of it more … But I will be going for the GT lightweight look (no bumpers).

Q: Tricks of the trade?
A: I’ve found the best printing method (at least for the tall skinny prints like mine) is to lay a heat strengthened glass sheet above the bed and Kapton tape on top of that and hair spray. The Kapton tape sticks better to glass than to the aluminum and the Kapton tape + hair spray sticks the prints down to the bed 99.9% of the time. I’ve found 95 deg (Celsius) is the best temperature for the bed.

We’ve posted more pics from his project below. Thanks to Ivan Sentch for sharing his project with us. You can find more info on Ivan’s replica project with pictures and updates at his blog: replicadb4.com.





Reblogged with permission from Solidoodle.


Yahea Abdulla manages public relations at Solidoodle, a Brooklyn, NY-based 3D printer company. His favorite part of the job is learning about the amazing ways customers are using 3D printing. His greatest 3D-printing achievement is the coaster on his desk.

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