One of the best parts of our job here at the fi additive hub is being able to make what might seem impossible, possible. So when Paul Radmall, founder of Marlborough Magnetos contacted us about creating some Figure 4 parts for him, we couldn’t pass up on the opportunity. MM is a company that specialises in rebuilding and renovating ancient automotive electrical equipment, most of which has been obsolete for around 100 years. Once renovated, this equipment brings operational originality to vintage vehicles, with reliable modern materials.
While most vintage parts can be brought back from the dead, insulating components have proved to be very difficult to find, and even when they are available, can be costly. The early plastics that were used for items like distributor caps and rotor arms have usually deteriorated significantly, but the good news is, additive manufacturing now offers a way of manufacturing “lost components” without those major tooling costs. Thanks to our technology at fi additive, now it really is possible to re-create 100-year-old components and get reliable results.
With the use of traditional design methods, CAD and selective use of our Creaform 3D Handyscan scanner, a digital file of the original parts can be created. During the design process, missing areas and worn surfaces can be re-imagined to replicate the original design intent. The result is a new part that is functionally and visually similar to the original item.
Additive manufacturing allows re-entrant curves and internal swept holes, so it is possible to be really creative when designing your “new” old part. Combinations of different printed materials and of course, metal inserts, can be readily incorporated. Complexity does not mean greater cost, so part numbers and logos can easily be printed at the same time. The trend is obvious, with imagination, the number of parts can be reduced so the cost can be driven down to become much more realistic.
Tests were run on some of the Figure 4 Photopolymers to investigate their resistance to relatively high temperatures combined with high voltage and sliding frictional wear. It was found that good service life can be obtained by adjusting, say, the spring loading of a carbon brush or the shape of the surfaces. As a result, it was possible to manufacture rotors, slip rings and HT pick-ups for Magnetos — without physical tooling. The components here are all unobtainable spare parts that are now running in vintage cars and motorcycles, all thanks to additive manufacturing and a bit of imagination.