When I first came upon the Tyr3D website it was not very confidence inspiring. And I was not exactly a fan of Tyr3D logo either. Yet, I had been assured that they were at the forefront of 3D printing spare car parts. Where everywhere else people just talked about 3D printing replacement car parts, Tyr3D were actually doing it as a business. In terms of using high-temperature materials such as PEEK and PEI this was a team that had built their own high-temperature 3D printers and were using them to print customer facing parts. They were using Ultimaker, Formlabs and Raise3D machines to recreate spare parts from classic cars. People I trusted told me that this small company in the middle of nowhere in Ireland was making the highest-quality 3D printed spare parts on offer.
With some skepticism I called Mark of Tyr3D to find out more about their business.
He said that indeed they were in Moodooge, Ballintrillick, County Sligo in Ireland. To the southeast about three hours is Dublin, to the west is the Atlantic and the United States. Below is a video detailing Tyr3D’s surroundings and the above image shows you the neighborhood. Ballintrillick, also called Ballaghnatrillick, is a village with a population of 20. No that’s not a typo. Local attractions include: three stones. Ten minutes away by car we can find the Atlantic at Mullaghmore, a relative metropolis of 136 people. The 20,000 inhabitants of Sligo are a half hour away. This is one of the lowest population density parts of Europe, with busses that are miles away and come once a day. Though with nature and sights aplenty, this is not a part of the world known for…anything.
And yet here is a small 3D printing business that makes car parts. Tyr3D 3D scans old car parts, 3D prints them, finishes them, paints them and then ships them to customers the world over. Local business is not a focus, says the friendly and precise Mark, who says “are you with me” a lot. Mark McGowan, who is extremely knowledgeable about finishing techniques, high-temperature 3D printing and high-performance polymers, started the business a year and a half ago together with Brendan O’Reilly.
They have 3 Ultimaker 2 printers. They also have two own build FDM 3D printers, a Raise3D printer and two Formlabs stereolithography printers. Mark also built his own stereolithography machine and a heavily modified Ultimaker 2 which can print at 480°C. Sometimes they use one of their Formlabs systems to cast parts or print on the Formlabs systems to then finish the SLA parts with paints. Most parts are 3D printed in ABS. Some are 3D printed in PEI and PEEK, which are high-performance materials that need to be made on their high-temperature 3D printer. Finishing and sanding take up a lot of their time and are also a big cost component.
Depending on the wishes of the customer the parts are either clear coated or painted. If they’re clear coated then Mark prints the part, cleans it, sands it to around a 6000-8000 grit, then he vapor smooths the part using his own vapor smoothing installation. He then clear coats the part with shellac. If the part needs primer then they first vapor smooth then fill and only then do they sand and apply primer.
Typically the team receives an old car part via email and then 3D scans it. No matter how broken the part this is still far simpler than designing it once again. Their business is very variable and depends on customer wishes; sometimes several Ultimakers are running 24/7 and sometimes it’s the Formlabs machines that are used more. Mark is very happy with the Raise3D machine and likes the reliability of the Formlabs machines as well. The Ultimaker 2s are very hackable, reliable and he uses them for most of his prints. He loves Marlin and often has to play with the firmware for his custom units and for optimizing high-temperature materials. He uses both Cura and Simplify3D for software. He likes the tweakability in Cura now and gets good results on the software but increasingly likes Simplify more. The best feature in any software package is, according to Mark, the smooth variable layer height settings in the Prusa Slic3r software which he uses often. He typically is aiming for a layer resolution of 80 to 20 microns. For some parts 250 micron will work in combination with sanding. Mark gets best results from printing at 35 to 50mm/s. In a lot of materials such as PEEK he’s gotten improved surface quality by dialing back speeds to 45mm/s for example. Optimization through preheating filaments is important to him. He also likes to run printers for one or two hours before printing to increase their ambient temperatures. With FDM he typically will use BuildTak as a bed adhesion technology, sometimes even in combination with glue sticks.
Mark informed me that most of their parts for car parts are ABS but they also 3D print PEI machinery parts including parts they use to upgrade their FDM printers. They’ve also made bicycle parts and have done custom orders. There is a high variability in pricing on the 3D scanning as he can’t really tell in advance how much time a part will take and therefore cost. Print times also differ as do material usage and shipping. Although they have made parts for $150 or so many are far more expensive than that.
Most of their customers are classic car restorers who have run into a problem with classic cars whose parts are not available anymore. What surprised me is that they also make parts for fairly recent cars. For 1980s and 1990s Mazdas for example, in some models, an A frame pillar can’t be removed without damaging it. Customers have asked them to print these A frames so that they can be installed on these cars. Every time a customer orders a new part the team continues to build its library of digital car parts. The Tyr3D team sees a lot of long-term value in building up this library of 3D printable car parts. For now it just means that some parts are cheaper than others.
Another surprise for me is that the team also has car customizers and modifiers as customers. These often send a mirror or other part to Tyr3D. This is then 3D scanned and then the file is adapted to have the new mirror design. Then it is 3D printed. The fact that these custom parts are based on 3D scans and partially reverse engineered before being redesigned was new to me. The team uses over 70 different 3D printing materials depending on the needs of the part.
Most parts are mirrors or dashboards. Often classic car dashboards are difficult to find. The team has also made mechanical parts, brackets, light brackets and interior parts. They sometimes even 3D print entire car bumpers. I think its wonderful that in the “backside of Ireland” buffeted by cold Atlantic winds a team of two is building 3D printers, using high-tech high-temperature 3D printing materials and making replacement parts for cars. It’s a testimony to some hard work, quick learning and devotion to at the edge of Europe build a 3D printing business. You can keep up to date with the Tyr3D team on Facebook or through their site.
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