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. Large parts like this door panel in original size (more than 100 mm length) are printed in smaller batches. Then they are glued together and sanded for a smooth surface. 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.”

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 like the X400 by German RepRap. 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.”