Replacement parts for the Porsche 959 may be produced with 3D printers (Photo: Porsche)

Porsche has started using 3D printers to produce rare spare parts for classic vehicles.

The German premium sports car maker said classic models have around 52,000 parts, most of which only need to be made in small quantities.

“The components can be produced on demand if needed, thereby eliminating tool and storage costs,” Porsche said.

Up to now, Porsche Classic, the division that handles all things related to older models, reproduced parts that were no longer in stock using the original tools. For larger quantities, new tools might be required. Both options are highly expensive and hugely inefficient.

As the quality of so-called additive manufacturing processes continues to improve and as costs involved decrease, 3D printing is becoming an economic alternative for production of small quantities, Porsche said. It cited the example of the release lever for the Porsche 959 clutch.

The company is already manufacturing eight other steel and alloy components using 3D printing and plastic parts via a selective laser sintering printer.

Porsche Classic is testing 3D printing’s suitability for 20 more components.