Door panels made by the 3D printer X400

Car designer Thomas Pazulla changes the prototyping process from laser-sintering to 3D printing using PLA

At the car designer house „Thomas Pazulla technical services“ prototypes are now build by a 3D printer, specifically the X400 by German RepRap.The decision to change from a laser-sinter process to the fused-filament fabrication (FFF) was not just driven by the cost savings.

„The parts are a lot more rigid than the laser-sintered models“, says Thomas Pazulla. „The model contains hooks which often broke off in the past.“

Large parts like this door panel which includes an armrest and is 650 x 450 mm in size are printed in smaller batches. Then they are glued together and sanded for a smooth surface. Pazulla prints using PLA, a so-called bio-plastic. PLA is the most common material for 3D printing. Compared to the well-known ABS, PLA is less prone to warping during temperature changes and hence better suited for RepRap 3D-printers. This is because of the lower printing temperature which also saves energy. The modulus of elasticity is about 4000 MPa. „The X400 is a very precise machine. I only get a deviation of 4/100 to 5/100 mm per 200mm. That’s more than enough“, says the design engineer.

Thomas Pazulla started with a single X400 3D-printer. By now he has so many orders that he runs a small X400 park. Pazulla: „My customers are changing from laser-sintered parts to 3D-printed models made of PLA.“