Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Little Non-Wood Diversion

Last year I was fortunate enough to acquire a car that I had long aspired to, an early 90's Lancia Delta. I have quickly learned that spare parts are going to be an ongoing problem.

A small plastic cap that was supposed to cover the rear window's wiper shaft / wiper arm connection cracked and fell off recently and thus I began my Quixotic quest to locate a new one of these. It is actually a purely decorative part, as the car works fine without it, and it is worth in my estimate about 17 cents. Not available from the usual (European) Lancia suppliers, I took to eBay and some less well known folks, and discovered it was in fact available. Prices ranged from about 17 euros to 40 euros, plus shipping of course.

Well these egregious prices really annoyed me, so I decided to instead 3D print a replacement.  I have never done 3D printing so this was to be a learning exercise as well as a process to get a usable part.

My son is attending university and has access to and is familiar with CAD software as part of one of his engineering courses, so he was to be my partner in crime on this. Without him helping me it is doubtful I would be able to get this done. I have no desire to learn CAD software myself, and paying someone to do it, or having a 3D scan of it made seemed totally uneconomical.

So after measuring up the original somewhat carefully with my calipers, I sent him the dimensions, he CAD'ed it up and subsequently sent me back a drawing.


After a couple back and forths it was good to go. I located a nearby 3D printer and $9 later I had my first prototype.

Original on left and first prototype on right

No surprise the fit was not quite right, so a bit more measuring and back and forthing we had a second drawing ready to print. The printer was also very helpful and provided some suggestions for improvement. However, for the second prototype they also increased their price to $13 for some unknown reason.
From Left: Original (now falling apart again), first prototype, second prototype


The second prototype is not quite right, but we are getting closer. Hopefully the next version will be on the money. Otherwise the exercise will turn out to have cost more than what I could have paid for one of the egregiously priced parts from Europe! In that case I may have to print off a few spares and attempt to undercut the European suppliers by offering them up on eBay etc.


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