Restoring Lotus Automobiles with Additive Manufacturing
The automotive industry is at the forefront of the additive manufacturing revolution. Ford, Porsche, GM are adding their own 3D printing divisions and are even printing end-use parts. These automotive giants are investing millions of dollars to create programs involving 3D printing integration.
Lotus Prepared By Claudius is the finest Lotus repair and restoration shop in the U.S. Watch how they take full advantage of additive manufacturing by creating custom parts for Lotus restorations. Founder and owner Detlef Claudius finds that 3D printing helps fill the voids left by out of production and otherwise unobtainable parts. Located in sunny Southern California, Lotus Prepared By Claudius is the most renowned Lotus shop in the world. If you see a classic Lotus on the road, chances are it was restored by Lotus Prepared By Claudius.
It is a rare sight to see a classic Lotus driving down the road. Most of these cars have had quite a bit of restoration done by Mr. Claudius and his shop. From 2016 and on he has featured 3D printed components in his restorations. Mr. Claudius discovered 3D printing technology in his mid-70’s and continues to incorporate it into his workflow at the shop. Using the AXIOM by Airwolf 3D, Mr. Claudius utilizes the technology to make everything from seatbelt surrounds to hubcaps. The list of such parts in his restoration process and the ability to eliminate the man-hours needed to create one-offs and custom parts is impressive.
Lotus Prepared By Claudius creates custom dashboards for most of the vehicles that come through the shop, and in order to fit these into the cars properly, custom air conditioning ducts must be made and fitted into the car. 3D printing allows for easy customization and allows the piecing together of several components in order to fit exactly how they need to. Without 3D printing, the process would take much longer and would be more cost-prohibitive.
The seat belt surrounds the shop used to machine and finish by hand over several hours now take a fraction of that time due to 3D printing and the amazing characteristics of ABS plastic. In order to achieve the impressive gloss finish of the aluminum part, Lotus Prepared By Claudius uses an acetone vapor treatment to smooth the print. In the end, you have a part that looks identical to the machined aluminum, but also took many hours less to make and only cost about $1.50.
Learning how to properly use and maintain the 3D printer proved to be quite easy for Mr. Claudius, who explains that it was never too late to get into 3D printing, especially when it continues to be beneficial to his business. “There is a small learning curve, but operating a machine that is easy to use, along with understanding how to use CAD software, makes it painless to jump right in.” Within days, Mr. Claudius was designing in Fusion 360 and slicing the models in APEX, then adding parts to the catalog and installing them within their projects.
The shop mainly utilizes MG94 ABS for its parts due to its versatility, strength, and finishing characteristics, but uses Nylon and other specialty materials for certain jobs. Knowing about the 3D printing capabilities the shop possesses, others from around the world contact Mr. Claudius to produce one-offs or special parts out of other engineering-grade materials. The AXIOM allows for high-temperature printing and is completely capable of printing in PC, TPU, Nylon, and ABS.
VIDEO: See the workflow from part design to final production and installation.
Lotus Prepared By Claudius continues to add more parts to their catalog and will be adding the new EVO Additive Manufacturing Center by Airwolf 3D to expand the printing capabilities. The addition of 3D printing to the shop is a game-changer and a main driving force behind their part production and customization. As we see the technology continue to evolve, the use of 3D printing in the smaller auto business will without a doubt catch on more and become a standard tool in any shop.
This is a one-page informational sheet for automotive 3d printing. Read this for a quick overview of 3d printing in the automotive sector.