Replacement Audi Plastics Thanks To 3D Printing

Old cars can be fun, and as long as you drive something that was once moderately popular, mechanical parts can be easy enough to come by. Things like filters, spark plugs, idle air solenoids – they’re generally available for decades after a car is out of production as long as you know where to look. However, plastics can be much harder to come by. 20 to 30 years into a car’s lifetime, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a radio surround or vent trim in as-new condition – they’ve all long ago succumbed to the sun and air like the cracked and discoloured piece in your own car. What is a hacker to do? Bust out the 3D printer, of course!

[Stephen Kraus] has developed a series of parts for his Audi, ready to print on the average home 3D printer. There’s the triple gauge mount which fits in the radio slot for that classic tuner look, to the printed wheel caps which are sure to come in handy after you’ve lost the originals. There are even useful parts for capping off the distributor if you’re switching to a more modern ignition setup. [Stephen] also reports that his replacement shifter bushing printed in PLA has lasted over a year in normal use.

This is an excellent example of what 3D printers do best – obscure, bespoke one-off parts with complex geometries are no trouble at all, and can be easily made at home. We’ve seen this done to great effect before, too – for example with this speedometer correction gear in an old truck.

39 thoughts on “Replacement Audi Plastics Thanks To 3D Printing

      1. 3d printing best lives up to it’s promise when people share their designs on the internet. Creating the part in some CAD program can be a lot of work and requires skills that most people do not have. Downloading the stl off the internet however and printing it can be done by almost anyone.

        Putting a design with some company’s trademark on it on the internet… yes that does indeed open one up to legal issues. Technically I’m not sure even making something for your own use is allowed but who is going to notice and/or act on it?

        If I were replacing a part which has a logo on it I would first design the part plain, without the logo and put that on the internet. I would then add the logo to my own copy of the part for my own personal use and never distribute that.

        1. Sure that’s different, though if he does it non-commercially it is more a case of brand missuse, which is also protected. However Audi are asses to bother with individuals like that, especially after murdering thousands more people than they promised according to the Euro 5 norm.

          1. “Sure that’s different, though if he does it non-commercially it is more a case of brand missuse, which is also protected.”

            Nope, as i have posted in a reply to your previous comment, it is trademark infringement which does not have any commercial/non-commercial distinction. Brand missuse is not protected as that is the idea at the foundation of trademark infringement, people protect their trademarks in order to prevent brand appropriation or misuse

            “However Audi are asses to bother with individuals like that, especially after murdering thousands more people than they promised according to the Euro 5 norm.”

            two things:

            First, Audi has not filed anything against this person and in fact this specific string of replies is in response to BMW being protective about their trademarks, which they have been known to do as they believe their brand to be one of their best marketing features.

            Second, attacks at Audi don’t do anything to further the discussion about trademarks and the legalities of using them. It makes it look like you are trying to distract from the issue being discussed.

      2. Its Trademark infringement and it does not require any sales to be illegal (just like copyright law). The idea is that by putting the Audi symbol on the part, an unknowing third party could download the part thinking it to be an official product endorsed by Audi. If i am not mistaken it falls under trademark dilution:

        “Under trademark law, dilution occurs either when unauthorized use of a mark “blurs” the “distinctive nature of the mark” or “tarnishes it.””

        The thing is that it makes complete sense for Audi to go after their trademark this way due to the spare parts they sell. This is why all OEM parts generally contain the logo of the manufacturer on it, manufacturers cannot stop others from making after-market parts but what they can do is use their logo and trademark law to ensure that the consumer using the product knows that it conforms to all OEM specifications. Now i dont know if this has been fully tested in court, especially regarding 3d printing but personally i believe that Audi is using the law correctly here as this is not a one off product that he made for himself but a 3d file that could be used to reproduce thousands of parts that could possibly not conform to OEM standards.

    1. So far Audi has not tagged me, and there’s a multitude of Audi emblem emblazoned items on Thingverse, etc.

      Naturally, if Audi files a DMCA claim, I really have no means to fight it and probably would not fight it anyways, but so far so good.

  1. Was wondering why the car would have analog and digital readout of battery voltage and temperature, but I see the analogs are aftermarket. Still seems a little silly, but suppose if you really like the analog style…

    I wonder if anyone is working on an online repository of printable car parts. Like an automotive DEFCAD. It bothers me how much weight we put into Thingiverse, especially with MakerBot on the verge of obscurity.

      1. It doesn’t get any more digital than a bar graph!

        Huh… I was going to be annoying and point out the meaning of digital is that it measures in discrete units with no gradations between. Is that not what digital means in regards to digital vs analog? I had to search a bit to find a site to link to that defines digital in that way. Most dictionary sites just have definitions about how digits are displayed like analog vs digital clocks or they go in to the original entomology and talk about counting on fingers.

        This was the best I could do.

    1. Older European cars (Audi, VW, BMW, SAAB, Volvo, Porsche, etc.) regularly had those 54mm round VDO analog gauges from the factory. My Volvo 240 had a whole slew of them. most were original to the car (oil pressure, oil temp, trans temp, vacuum gauge,) but someone had added VDO amperage and voltage gauges too. The dash was molded with the holes already in it, you just had to remove the blanking plates and add the trim bezels for each gauge you were putting in.

      1. Yup! the goal was to retain the original feel of the dash gauges, I am also in the process of making an Arduino based Digital OLED gauge with logging for temperatures/pressures/etc built in.

    2. The guages were a test fit. I’m actually prototyping an OLED Arduino powered digital gauge with builtin logging for that specific car.

      The original purpose in the dash replacement was to add a boost gauge for the now turbocharged engine, and it serves that purpose.

      The radio was replaced with a Bluetooth receiver that is mounted behind the dash and has a simple on/off switch on the kickpanel.

    3. Analog gauges are not aftermarket. That is just two different original options installed into one car :) Original analog gauge mount NLA, and hard-to-find item, so it was printed by topic hero. I could find official analog gauges VAG part numbers if you wish. They made by VDO and used in all Audi and VW 80’s models as option.

  2. Sorry, but hub cap VAG 841 601 165 is dirt cheap and still available from officials. Even expensive lists it for reasonable 5.50 EUR

    3D printing car parts is exellent solution for NLA parts, done that for my cars numerous times, but that’s not the case for that part. I’m great 80’s VAG fan too (have 2 Audis and one Golf mk2), but prefer original parts, especially if it does not have aerospace part price. :)

    1. Here’s the issue that usually happens with those caps: They only have 4 retaining clips. The original STL of the cap that I modified (I didn’t make the original cap) had 4 as well, I modified mine to have 8 so that you could break one or two without the cap coming lose.

      The goal in replicating NLA parts is not just availability, but improving the part for better service life.

      1. Original 841 601 165 is made from PP (unlike lot of other caps, made from ABS or other fragile plastics), so, it’s nearly impossible to broke the clips on them, at least on new one. This part will easily last 30 years more.

        I tried to print that cap from ABS, just for fun, just because I can, (it is on thingiverse for a while), but clips was so fragile and easily cracked along layers even after acetone bath. May be PETG/SBS will be better, but original PP cast is far better.

        Again, I’m talking only about 841 601 165 part – this is the case when it is absolutely reasonable in any sense to buy new original part than to print it.

        1. I modified the clips to prevent them from breaking when installing.

          Naturally, having access to higher quality materials like OEM has is great, but there was a need and I was unaware the original was still available.

          I printed them in PLA and they are still going strong a year later.

  3. Never expected it to make hack a day. Nice.

    The car in the picture is also one big hack: Its originally a JT Non-Turbo 5 cylinder that I hacked together/cut/drilled to add turbocharging.

    Its a hack in all senses of the work, and I daily it.

    1. 80’s Audis is incredibly hackable cars. You could fit any engine and options without serious body work, since body is calculated and unified for all possible variants (except fitting quattro to front dirve car). for 100/5000 you could fit anything up to V8, for 80/Coupe/4000 up to V6, including VR6 from VW. V8 also possible, but it’s a bit tricky and will not end with just bolting it under the hood.

      Also there is endless electric options from grown now into fashion start-stop system to mid-80’s digital dash with voice notifications (yes voice, and it even need not be continuously connected to that shitty and completely unnecessary cloud services from BigBrother!!!) for 80/4000/Coupe B2.

          1. I miss my Jetta Mk2 Diesel, I have a Mk3 Jetta TDI as well, I’ve also have an 81 Rabbit 1.5D.

            My pride and joy right now is my Audi 90 Quattro with a 2.4l Turbodiesel conversion.

      1. I’m busy fitting a auxiliary heater from a VW touran to my millennium 1.9L PD A4.
        Had to do some VCDS abuse to get it working, but I succeeded.
        Also added various of other extras thanks to eBay and more vcds bodging.

        But I’m still missing my late 80’s Passat :'(
        Was a roomy tractor with good fuel economy and seated 4 adults while hauling all their camping gear.

  4. I used to drive an Audi 4000 long ago; great car. One day, the engine just died while on the road. A little examination revealed a broken (tooth stripped) timing belt. I had the car towed home, and I was able to replace the belt myself without much difficulty and with only basic tools. These days, interference engines are the norm, and they’re buried under layers of covers.

  5. I think you’d want to sand and paint those if they are a permanent addition. They would look better that way, unless you like the 3D printed looks.

    I printed a hinge for the box between front seats for my Carina E. Original was broken and TPU filament works great there. I still have to iterate the design a bit and print the final one from black TPU (the current one is in red). I haven’t thought of sharing it but I probably should once it’s ready.

    1. It’s gonna end up like carbon fibre isn’t it? The shatty barely wetted with resin carbon fibre look got to be “trick”, something you show off… now we’re gonna have 3D print ridges in everything…. coming soon, 3D print effect tape/applique/skin for your laptop….

        1. I get it, it’s a utility finish where the utmost lightness of the component is of prime importance, but to make regular heavy shit just “look like” that is asinine.

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