When did you first come across a part you needed for your Porsche that was No Longer Available (NLA)? Volkswagen Rabbit and early 924 owners are beginning to feel that pain as production ends on front control arms and brackets for their cars. The power steering pump bracket for Project 944 GTS has been out of production for years. Fortunately, Porsche is rapidly adopting 3D printing technology for limited run parts. Following an investment in Markforged late last year, Porsche is quickly developing the ability to produce small runs of 3D printed rare parts.
Economies of Scale
Traditionally Porsche Classic has produced larger batches of obsolete parts using the original tooling whenever possible. For relatively common parts, this practice can be very efficient. A relatively small production run is capable of paying for itself. In some instances, the number of cars that will require a given part can be extremely small. Of the 2,104 Carrera 3.2-based Speedsters, how many are likely to need a single rare part at any given time? 3D Printed components can be produced efficiently in very small batches, down to runs of individual parts.
Worse still, what if production is even lower, like the 292 959s, or the 25 911 GT1s? Porsche's new practice allows metal components to be made using an additive process called selective laser melting. The process uses a high energy light beam to melt powdered tool steel in an inert environment. The resulting parts have passed both Porsche's pressure test and tgraphic examination procedures, proving that this is a practical and viable method for producing parts.
Currently Porsche is producing nine parts by this method. The current selection of parts includes the clutch release lever for the 959, mirror bracket for the 911 Speedster and even 356 components. The process is not limited to metal parts. Selective laser sintering (SLS) can be used to create plastic components too. According to Porsche the new parts are manufactured to at least the standards of the original parts, though higher quality is possible due to modern processes.
Projected pricing for the 3D Printed components has not been released.