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Design and Make your own NSX 3D Printed Parts! - Tutorial

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Hey guys, check out the article I wrote on MotoIQ.com, discussing my journey to solve a problem of the NSX's OEM plastic door frame cracking, and the inability to source the driver's center section. You too can learn how to design and 3D print your own car parts:

Make Your Own Parts with Shareware CAD and 3D Printing!

Additive manufacturing is a booming industry.* Due to advancements in technology, designing and 3D printing your own parts at home is becoming cheaper and easier than ever.* You don’t need to be an engineer or really even that great at math in order to learn how to make your own CAD designs.* All that is needed is the ability to take basic measurements, make some drawings, and watch YouTube videos.

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https://motoiq.com/make-your-own-parts-with-shareware-cad-and-3d-printing/3/

Computer-aided design (CAD) and 3D printing car parts is the way of the future for both car restorations and performance.* Recreating discontinued parts is a game-changer in the restoration world, and the ability to create new shapes that are impossible to achieve with normal manufacturing opens the door to new possibilities and levels of performance that were never before achievable.

Designs can be printed on a home printer out of a variety of different plastics that improve in quality with each passing year.* Additionally, the design can be sent out to be machined, cast, or 3D printed out of metal.

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For a couple hundred dollars you can buy a 3D printer, then download and print an endless supply of free, life-improving designs for around the house or for hobbies ranging from children’s toys, figurines, cosplay costumes, firearms, racing drones, cooking, gaming, photography, and cars.

[inmg]https://photos.smugmug.com/MotoIQ/Tech/Self-Taught-CAD/i-WMSp6tQ/1/38e433fe/X2/2%20Fusion%20360%20saw-X2.jpg[/img]
There is now extremely powerful, free computer-aided design (CAD) software and YouTube tutorials that make it possible for anyone to learn how use this software to create their own designs without committing to spending hundreds to thousands of dollars on professional software and in-person courses.* This story is one of those examples.

PROBLEM

My CAD journey started with our Project NSX and the need for a plastic door frame piece that was no longer available in the US and out of stock in Japan.

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The NSX’s door frame attaches to the door card and holds the entire assembly to the aluminum door.* This plastic frame is made up of three pieces: front, center, and rear.

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The plastic mounting tabs that hold the frame to the door and door card are notorious for breaking over time, even if the door card has never been removed.

At the time, only 5 of the 6 pieces were available from Japan.* My solution was to 3D print the missing part after scanning the brand-new passenger center piece, then drawing and mirroring it to create the missing driver’s side.* I would also look into reinforcing and increasing the radius of the tabs to make them stronger than OEM.

After waiting for months on friends with 3D printers and CAD design experience to help in this endeavor, I was motivated to buy a printer and teach myself CAD from YouTube videos.* It took a little time to learn but it’s not as daunting as I originally feared.* It was worthwhile because now I can knock out designs fairly quickly and have made quite a few parts for my car and in many other applications.

3D PRINTER​

The first step to making my part was to get a 3D printer.* It seems like every few months new 3D printer models pop up that are better and less expensive than their predecessors.* There are many different types of 3D printing technologies out there (SLS, DLP, MJF, PolyJet, DMLS, EBM, etc…) but the two main types of consumer grade 3D printers are SLA and FDM.

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StereoLithogrAphy (SLA) is the first 3D printing technology that started in the 1980s and is one of the most popular types for professionals and modelers.* SLA resin printers are popular due to their highly accurate, detailed, isotropic, watertight finished product.* Different resins are available with a wide range of mechanical and thermal properties, but they don’t match the strength of filaments used in FDM printing.

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Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) and is the most commonly used form of 3D printing for consumers.* Thermoplastic filaments wound onto a spool are melted and extruded through a heated nozzle and depositing a thin (usually 0.2mm) layer of plastic to a build platform, laying down layer after layer, until the part is complete.

Thermoplastic technology is advancing as fast as the printers themselves.* Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) was one of the most popular plastics to print in the early days of consumer grade printers, but Polylactic Acid (PLA) has become the norm due to its ease of printing and is generally considered food safe and safe to print without producing toxic fumes.* PLA is quite stiff, but it’s not that strong, does not hold up to UV light, and starts to soften at 122*F.* Polyethylene Terephthalate – Glycol (PETG) is gaining traction to potentially replace PLA as new versions are becoming closer to PLA in terms of stiffness and ease of printing, while handling UV better than ABS and having close to the same temperature resistance as ABS.

The ability to print thermoplastics such as polycarbonates, nylons, and carbon fiber infused filaments, make FDM the best bang for the buck for making strong parts from an inexpensive printer.* Because of this, an FDM printer fit my needs the best.

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My first 3D printer was a FlashForge Creator Pro I got back in 2016.* This $1,200 printer was packed full of high-end components: direct-drive extruder (the filament feed motor is directly on the moving gantry), dual extruders, linear rails, a built-in enclosure to keep the heat in, and dual filament spools.* The only real negative was its modest 225x145x150mm build volume.

I used this printer solely to make free designs from either Thingiverse or from the racing drone community.* It’s almost a prerequisite to own a 3D printer if you’re into that hobby since every bracket, antenna mount, skids, camera mount, etc… are 3D printed and the files are shared throughout the community.

While this was a great printer from a reputable brand that printed well, it was too small for making the interior door frame for the NSX.

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I decided to go with the Creality CR-10S Pro V2 with its large 300x300x400mm build volume.* Creality is a Chinese 3D printer manufacturer that is one of the highest selling printers on the market.* With 200K followers on Facebook and 150K active members in the two main user groups, Creality has roughly twice the following of the Czech built Prusa.

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The Prusa i3 MK3S+ is currently considered the best all-around consumer 3D printer on the market and utilizes high quality components and has a massive following.* Unfortunately, the build volume was not large enough for the part I needed to print so I had to cross it off the list.* For most people, the build plate is large enough and the extra cost is often worth it for a printer that’s virtually “plug-and-play”.

The Creality printers are some of the least expensive options out there and accordingly, do not use the highest quality parts.* However, their affordable nature has led to a giant community and tons of information on how to upgrade every component of the printer to print as good, or better than the Prusa, or other printers that cost 5X the price.* Going this route will take a bit more time researching, testing, troubleshooting, and tweaking the printer’s settings but given that my 300x300 build volume requirement, this was my only real option at the time of this writing.* It won’t be long until printers of Prusa’s or FlashForge’s quality and almost plug-and-play ability will be as affordable in a printer of this size.

Here are some figures for printers, prices, and build volumes as of January 2021:

Creality Ender 3 - $180-262 - 220x220x250

Creality CR10 - $350-600 - 300x300x400

Prusa MINI+ - $400 - 180x180x180

Prusa i3 MK3S+ - is $1,000 or $750 for the kit - 250x210x210

MakerBot Replicator - $2,000 - 295x196x165

Markforged Mark Two - $7K, Onyx Pro - $10K Onyx One - $3,500 - 320x132x154

Desktop Metal Fiber - $3,500-5,500 annually - 310x240x270

MakerBot Replicator Z18
- $5,500 - 300x305x457

The Creality CR-10’s build volume just barely fit the dimensions that I needed.* I chose the most expensive $600 CR-10S Pro V2 primarily due to space limitations on where I was going to put the printer.* If I had more room, I would have chosen the cheaper CR-10 since I either upgraded or plan on upgrading every aspect that makes the “Pro V2” better than the base printer.

PRINTER UPGRADES:​

3D printers are another hobby that is extremely difficult to resist modifying and upgrading, because there are so many options out there.* I ended up sinking another $600 into the printer to get it to where it is today, printing as good as my old, high-end FlashForge Creator Pro after a lot of tweaking.* I am waiting for the direct drive extruder to come back in stock so I can print higher temperature filaments like Nylon and ASA.* There are a lot of YouTube videos and websites that discuss upgrades for the CR-10, but here are my top 3:

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Z-Sync Kit.* This was a game-changer for Leveling The Bed.* Get used to hearing that phrase as the solution to almost every problem on a 3D printer.* Once I installed the Z-Axis Sync belt, I no longer had to adjust the left and right Z-axis worm gears every time I started a new print.* This was the biggest headache of the CR-10 printer that was fixed with $15.* This is also not a problem to begin with for higher end printers like the Prusa or FlashForge.

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WhamBam Flexible Build System was my second favorite modification.* This flexible and removable magnetic build plate has a thin layer of their PEX material on top of the metal.* This makes prints stick very well to the build sheet (which is very important for printing) but also allows the print to be easily removed, and then flexed to ‘pop’ the part off the metal build plate.* No longer is blue painters tape and various types of hairspray, Elmer’s glue, or special adhesives necessary to get the prints to stick, and you don’t risk damaging the part or the build plate by trying to chisel the part off of the build plate.

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OctoPrint software is a bit more involved to incorporate but I love the convenience.* After buying a Raspberry Pi, uploading the OctoPi software onto it, and then connecting it to the printer, you can access and control the printer from your computer directly, either across the room, house, or from anywhere in the world.* There are more control features that are easier to use than on the printer itself, you can upload files directly to the printer, rather than putting files onto an SD card then transferring it to the printer each time, and you can hook a webcam to the Raspberry Pi to monitor the print from your phone.* Overall, it does not seem like a big benefit, but if you do a lot of printing, it’s extremely convenient.

With my printer up and running, I needed to learn how to design my part.

COMPUTER-AIDED DESIGN (CAD) MODELING:​

At MotoIQ, we have used computer-aided design (CAD) and 3D printing to mock up a custom turbo manifold for Project S2000.* This enabled us to locate the turbo exactly where we wanted and model the flow characteristics before having it investment cast out of 347SS.

There are a lot of CAD software options out there.* Solidworks and AutoCAD are two very well-known and popular options, but cost $1,300-1,700 per year.* Meanwhile Fusion 360 costs $495 for the professional, and is free for hobbyists if the user generates less than $1,000 in annual revenue.* There are various other free software including TinkerCAD, FreeCAD, SketchUp, Onshape Free, Blender, but many are limited in their functionality compared to the software that you pay for.

I decided to go with Fusion 360 For Personal Use from AutoDesk.com due to the power of the software, the support and tutorials online, and it’s free for me as a Hobbyist since I’m designing parts to make my car better and my life easier.

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Next, I had to learn how to use the software.* I did this by searching YouTube for Fusion 360 Tutorials.* I found a really good 3-part tutorial by Lars Christensen on how to make a simple conduit box.

After getting the basics down on how to use the fundamental tools of sketching geometries, cutting, and extruding, I found a more advanced video on making snap fit cases.* Click the link.

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With these skills, I made my first design.* A little bracket that mounts a Raspberry Pi to a screen

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After a couple hours of print time, I successfully mounted a Raspberry Pi to a Capacitive Touch Screen with my design.

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My next design came out of frustration.* I needed to adapt a 1.75” shop Vac to a 1.25” pet attachment.* I had to return 3-4 different assorted vacuum attachment kits purchased from Amazon because nothing worked.* I used my newfound skills to quickly draw up this simple adapter.

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With less than an hour of print time it was finished.* I was ecstatic that within a few minutes, I solved a problem that took me days of purchasing and returning parts that didn’t work from Amazon!* This endeavor is already helping in many ways.

Now that my comfort level with designing and printing was at a good point, I was ready to tackle the real driving force behind this entire effort, the NSX door frame.

NSX DOOR FRAME:​

Now I was ready to try designing my missing driver’s side door part.* First, I had to get the new OEM passenger side scanned.* Since the white light scanner used on Project S2000 was not available, I went to our friends at Mountune to have it scanned using their FaroArm’s Prizm Laser.

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We enlisted the same service to scan the NSX’s block as part of the development of a new dry sump oiling system for the car, which we will cover in a future article.

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The 3D scan creates what is known as a ‘point cloud’, consisting of millions of little dots in space.

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The next step is to turn the raw point cloud into a ‘mesh body’.* This converts the millions of points into a ‘mesh’ of little triangles.* This is necessary to work with and modify the model.

17.5%20NSX%20door%20frame%20sketch%20Billy%20Design-X3.jpg

Another way to replicate a part is to use the point cloud or mesh as a template and draw a new part from scratch.* This is what I did for this door frame piece.* Simple sketches of the shape and size and location of the mounting holes are the foundation of making the part.

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From there, each shape is extruded to the thickness of the part.

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This completed design was made in 2-pieces in order to fit on the CR-10 printer’s 300x300 build plate.* I radiused the edges and copied the OEM locking interface to connect the two pieces together.

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The key to creating the missing piece is a simple “mirror” function.* A few clicks of the mouse turns hours of work drawing the scanned part into the missing one.

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With the model created, the next step is to process the model in a ‘slicing’ software like Ultimaker Cura.* This takes the solid model and ‘slices’ it into each layer that the printer will lay down.* The layer thickness, print speed, temperature, retraction settings, feed rate, and many more settings are all determined in the slicer software.* This is a crucial part of 3D printing and it can take some time to dial in the perfect settings for each new material to make sure it has the right strength, stiffness, and quality of the print.

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Once the slicer is done, the finished “.stl” file is uploaded to the printer directly via an SD card or wirelessly through software like OctoPrint and then the printer starts the print.

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Half way though the print, it’s easy to see each layer being laid down.

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With the print complete, the 3D Printed NSX Lower Door Frame is done!

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Compared to stock (above), the new design (below) has thicker tabs with large-radius corners that reduce stress risers and crack propagation.

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This is really important when the OEM tabs break at the sharp edges of the tabs.

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The interface where the center door frame locks into the front door frame is matched identically.

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The 3d Printed piece fits perfectly.

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With the design dimensions verified, the material itself had to be tested.* PLA is the most common thermoplastic used today in 3D printing. However, it has a fairly low ‘glass transition’ point that was questionable to holding up to temperatures found inside cars on a hot day.* Additionally, PLA does not hold up well to UV rays.* Various test pieces were left outside on a 90* day, in direct sunlight for weeks on end and it was interesting to see PLA warp significantly.* Carbon Fiber-infused PLA and PETG, as well as PETG itself held up great to UV rays and this heat.

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Each setting from the build plate temperature, printer temperature, speed, layer height, retraction, etc.. all play a part in the finish product’s texture, dimensional accuracy, strength, and stiffness.* Countless destructive tests of multiple brands of PLA and PETG were tested and compared to the strength of the OEM ABS plastic.* Yes, OEM pieces were destroyed to ensure the new printed parts were stronger.

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From this testing, slight changes in the design were necessary for use with the selected print material to surpass the strength and stiffness of the OEM part. The tab area was made thicker with thicker bracing, and the radiused edges were changed along with the shape of the interlocking ‘tabs’.

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This redesign resulted in tabs that are virtually impossible to break by hand, and yield by bending rather than snapping like the OEM tabs.

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With the final design extensively tested and refined, they were ready to be installed for the final time.

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Mounted to the door, the new 3D printed NSX Door Frame was a huge success and should last far beyond the OEM front and rear door frame pieces.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Out of the need for a missing driver’s side door frame for Project NSX, and for improving the design which are known to break over time, this endeavor has been quite successful.* I have now learned the skills it takes to draw in CAD, and figured out how to upgrade an inexpensive 3D printer to print high quality parts and bring my design to life as a functional part that’s better than OEM.

These skills have been quite handy around the house and I find that I’m using them more often when working on my car, since printing parts is now an attainable and a very helpful solution.* This is the way of the future for hobbyists to bring older cars back to glory as well as pushing the envelope of performance and creativity.* I hope you have enjoyed my journey and realize that it’s not a difficult skill to learn, and that it too might be worth trying it for yourself.* The possibilities are only limited to your imagination.


Billy
 
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I really like this article. Thank you for documenting and sharing.
This might be the new modern way to keep our old cars in one piece.
 
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Great writeup! I know alot of people use Fusion360 for basic CAD drawings.

I know you don't even need to own a 3d printer in order to print your own designed parts. Companies like Shapeways, Craftcloud, and 3D Hubs can 3d-print and laser-print your designs. This leaves only the IP of the design which is valuable. I guess I'm not sure if they print UV-resistant materials like PETG but I'm sure it's not hard.

It really is a game changer. I still think OEM provides the best fit and confidence, but once you enter the classic car world where everything is discontinued I guess we have no choice. As the technology improves hopefully vendors will find a way to break into this world and offer us a slew of new parts to choose from.
 
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Great writeup! I know alot of people use Fusion360 for basic CAD drawings.

I know you don't even need to own a 3d printer in order to print your own designed parts. Companies like Shapeways, Craftcloud, and 3D Hubs can 3d-print and laser-print your designs. This leaves only the IP of the design which is valuable. I guess I'm not sure if they print UV-resistant materials like PETG but I'm sure it's not hard.

It really is a game changer. I still think OEM provides the best fit and confidence, but once you enter the classic car world where everything is discontinued I guess we have no choice. As the technology improves hopefully vendors will find a way to break into this world and offer us a slew of new parts to choose from.
For sure. I just got a badass new direct-drive hot end that can print higher temp materials like ASA, PolyCarbonate, Nylon, etc... Unfortunately, it's still cheaper to buy your own printer than to have one of those services print them for you. The price they quoted to make these door panels was insane.

Stay tuned to the MotoIQ articles, I will be showing a metal 3D printed engine component that i'll be using on my NSX in the near future.

You selling these or the DXF files?
Shoot me a PM.
 
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This is a great article. I bought a 3D printer last year for some other projects, but have yet to print any NSX parts yet. It would be nice if we could carve out a location on NSXPrime where 3D print filed could be uploaded by users for downloaded by others.

Do you have the STL files for the door frame parts? I'd like to try printing these out and installing on my door panels next time I take them off.

Thanks again for this contribution to the community!
 
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Great article! Incredibly detailed! PRUSA MK3S myself - can't wait for the XL to come out. I use TinkerCad. My son is also an engineer & uses SolidWorks for anything complicated that I need.

(For several of these parts with broken tabs like my knee bolster, I manually "3-D printed" new tabs and reinforcing fillets on with epoxy & a popsicle stick - now way stronger, but printing the part in 3-D would be better.)

My battery bar started to corrode so I drafted it up (and modified it to reduce stress concentration and fit the battery better - also shaved a pound over the stock steel bar.
https://photos.app.goo.gl/VUigBax9gJj6LGpLA
I'm considering printing it in abs, but PET seems strong enough to me. Should be OK temp wise with a melt point around 250 C. I agree that PLA has no place in exterior or automotive environments with its low melt-point and lack of UV resistance.

As you noted, the big cost is your time drafting the parts. Would there be any way for NSXPrime to host .stl files for others to use? I'd be glad to contribute my battery bar and I'm sure I'll be making more parts as time goes by. We'd need not just the file repository, but slicer/print settings.

Which brings up the biggest elephant in the room. 3D-printed parts are often not that strong and can change in strength depending on the orientation you print them in (& subsequent layer orientation).

It looks like you did a great job testing your parts, but I worry if people without engineering backgrounds start drafting things. Printing is also not as easy as just pressing print - some parts will need different slicing (layer height, density, infill) settings over different print volumes for structural integrity. Caveat Emptor I guess.

Tim (B. Eng, M. Eng, P. Eng)
 
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Yes, 'tuning' the printer for a specific filament can give drastically different results in quality, strength, stiffness, etc... Printers are not at the point where you upload a file and hit 'print' and you'll have exactly the same part that I have.
 
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Yes, 'tuning' the printer for a specific filament can give drastically different results in quality, strength, stiffness, etc... Printers are not at the point where you upload a file and hit 'print' and you'll have exactly the same part that I have.
Yes, but much more than just tuning the printer for the filament properties. You need to tune the slicer in terms of print orientation to get the filament running the correct way to increase strength and also avoid tabletops. You can also dramatically increase the strength of a part by defining small volumes inside the print for different slicer settings like density to create stronger internal structures in some locations.
 
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Yes, but much more than just tuning the printer for the filament properties. You need to tune the slicer in terms of print orientation to get the filament running the correct way to increase strength and also avoid tabletops. You can also dramatically increase the strength of a part by defining small volumes inside the print for different slicer settings like density to create stronger internal structures in some locations.
Yup. There's a lot to 3D printing. Most of which is learning from a lot of testing. -I've destroyed countless test pieces (and compared them to the failure point of brand new OEM pieces) to ensure strength and durability of my prints.
 
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How difficult has it been to learn to think 3D printing from a design and drafting perspective?

I used to be very proficient with 2D autocad, just about the time 3D CAD started becoming popular and affordable. However, that was when I left my technical position. I can think in 3D, but haven’t started thinking printing of parts.
 
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How difficult has it been to learn to think 3D printing from a design and drafting perspective?

I used to be very proficient with 2D autocad, just about the time 3D CAD started becoming popular and affordable. However, that was when I left my technical position. I can think in 3D, but haven’t started thinking printing of parts.
Not too difficult. The basic tools of cutting and extruding is still on a 2D drawing on a different plane. As you start to want to make more complex things on planes that are different from 90* is where it becomes a little more difficult. But like anything, the more you do it, the easier it becomes, and the more your mind has to think of different ways of making something. I can knock out cases for various little electronics with openings for plugs and buttons very quickly; and I find myself designing little brackets for stereo amps, ECU mounts, etc... right and left. 3D printing becomes a pretty easy solution for a lot of little problems.
 
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Made some Door latch bushing sets before I knew the part number (04721-SL0-000), and because I didn't want to wait months for it to ship from Japan:

Gotta love 3D Printing!

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For sure. I just got a badass new direct-drive hot end that can print higher temp materials like ASA, PolyCarbonate, Nylon, etc... Unfortunately, it's still cheaper to buy your own printer than to have one of those services print them for you. The price they quoted to make these door panels was insane.

Stay tuned to the MotoIQ articles, I will be showing a metal 3D printed engine component that i'll be using on my NSX in the near future.


Shoot me a PM.


Hi Stuntman,

I'm interested on the 3D file, could you please email me at [email protected]

I just created the account so I don't know how to direct PM.
 
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This gives me hope :) Also it gives me hope for the american car market, not needing stuff made with big expensive molds overseas created in mammoth factories, but made in people's basements. little bondo and paint and soon we can replicate our own spoilers, fenders and bumpers. NSX-R GT intake on the roof, woo!
 
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