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Producing Legacy Parts for a 1967 Sunbeam

Carl Moon, Vice President of Operations at Weldon Solutions, had a relatively simple problem: he was looking for a particular part for an antique car. But the solution was a bit more complex: the part was rare, and those available had seen considerable wear over the years. With the original part no longer in production and existing copies warped with time, Moon turned to 3D printing and ProtoCAM¹ to aid him in creating a replacement he could showcase.

Collecting a Rarity

Moon is a collector of a particular type of automobile: British-made Sunbeams. During the last year of production in 1967, these sports cars’ radio options came only with a small plastic box to house the speaker, which the dealers installed at the time. Unfortunately, the production of these unique cars stopped that same year. As time passed, the housing boxes saw increasing wear, as they had been designed from relatively inexpensive plastic as a cost-saving measure. Additionally, the radios that were original to the car were often replaced with FM radios and multiple speaker systems, so the original radios and housings were most often thrown out—finding a replacement proved to be a tricky endeavor, as original parts became quite rare. “I’ve only seen two for sale in over 30 years,” Moon notes.

Wanting to present the best version of his rare vehicle possible, Moon searched all over for solutions, eventually finding an original housing. “[It] was in bad, bad shape, and it couldn’t be used,” Moon recalls. But he had an idea to use a manufacturing technique that utilized the original housing while creating a more solid, durable version: 3D printing.

Planning Out Production for a Legacy Part

Moon began considering the possibilities inherent in additive manufacturing, as his company, Weldon Solutions, had previously purchased a 3D printer for use in their facility. “We used [ProtoCAM] as a reference,” Moon said of Weldon Solutions’ decision to buy their printer. They could check out the pricing and capabilities ProtoCAM offered before deciding they were better suited to buying their in-house printer for their smaller, less complex projects.

ProtoCAM also offered a service unique to the additive manufacturing method of production: bringing new life to legacy parts. The term “legacy part” describes any part that is no longer made by a manufacturer, like Moon’s automotive speaker housing. Legacy parts can be beautiful and intricate examples of how parts used to be made, but the trouble begins when these parts start to deteriorate with time. With the manufacturer no longer producing replacement parts, the owner of the legacy part is left to search for the rare parts that may have endured through time or pursue custom replacements that are often quite expensive.

Enter 3D printing, a far more cost-effective way to reproduce and revitalize legacy parts. The 3D print process allows reverse engineering of the original part for accurate reproduction. Once the part is digitally reproduced, it can be manipulated and repaired using 3D CAD programs and even improved upon, as ProtoCAM has demonstrated in several past projects.

Now better aware of what was possible with 3D printing and additive manufacturing, Moon began drawing up a 3D model based on measurements from the older housing he had bought, paying close attention to each tiny detail left from the original molding process. Moon passed the file over to a Weldon Solutions’ mechanical engineer, who first tried printing the housing on his at-home printer. The print was a success, but Moon found the first attempt relatively weak, with a rough surface from the layering inherent with many smaller, at-home printers. Hoping to replicate the part as closely as possible, Moon began investigating a smoother, more durable printing solution that would create a part that could last a lifetime and looked presentation-ready, too.

"The finish and color were better than I ever imagined. It was a perfect application; it was molded years ago fairly complexly, and [ProtoCAM] was able to replicate it perfectly.”

Strength and Beauty with Multi Jet Fusion

Acting on a suggestion from his mechanical engineer, Moon looked into Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) technology, which would offer the strength and superior finish he was searching for. “He suggested [MJF] because it’s not the most expensive, but it would create a nice, consistent finish, and it’s fairly strong; and, I could get it black; black is what I wanted,” Moon says of taking this new direction.

Moon worked on several iterations of the housing before handing off his 3D model to the engineers at ProtoCAM to produce the piece. Moon cites the high level of professionalism and customer service demonstrated at ProtoCAM as being particularly satisfying to his experience. “I was so impressed, because Jessica was so nice about, ‘hey, make sure you send this and get another quote so we don’t mix up the files,’ because I was worried about that, and it just worked out perfectly,” Moon says of his experience in discussing various iterations of his model with the ProtoCAM team.

Restored and Revitalized

The finished product, which Moon received within two days of sending his final iteration, was a new, sleek, and strong recreation of the original legacy part. “The finish and color were better than I ever imagined,” Moon reflects. “It was a perfect application; it was molded years ago fairly complexly, and [ProtoCAM] was able to replicate it perfectly,” Moon says of the final piece.

Moon now hopes to share his 3D file with other Sunbeam collectors so they too can reproduce the part and restore their Sunbeams to their former glory; he also notes how his positive experience with ProtoCAM means he will point those wishing for a strong, detailed part to turn to the Allentown additive manufacturer for the production of their parts.

What problems are troubling you? Can we help with material and technology solutions? Call us at (608) 437-1400 or email at [email protected].

We look help to helping get your ideas made.

  1.  ProtoCAM, located in Allentown, PA, was acquired by Prototek and is a part of their additive manufacturing division, now Midwest Prototyping.

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