This might be the coolest use of 3D-printing we’ve seen yet. Porsche, along with Mahle and Trumpf, has figured out how to print pistons, and they’re not destined for some short-lived track-only model, but the roadgoing 911 GT2 RS.
They’re built up, like all 3D-printed parts, layer by layer. Instead of a mould, metal powder is left in the right places thanks to a laser metal fusion process that uses a beam of light to heat and melt the powder.
Using 3D pistons for the 911 GT2 RS lets Porsche deliver pistons designed perfectly for the application, not compromised by Porsche suppliers having to build the darn things starting with raw metal materials. The new pistons are 10 percent lighter than forged production pistons. They’ve also got special cooling ducts inside that “could not have been produced by conventional methods,” flowing oil to wherever it is needed to prevent bad things from happening in the combustion chamber.
“Thanks to the new, lighter pistons, we can increase the engine speed, lower the temperature load on the pistons and optimize combustion,” explains Frank Ickinger from the advance drive development department at Porsche. “This makes it possible to get up to 30 PS more power from the 700 PS biturbo engine, while at the same time improving efficiency.” We’re going to assume that with 10 percent less weight, Porsche can likely let the engine rev higher, too.
Porsche already makes a 3D-print seat shell as a custom extra, and Porsche Classic will make you some otherwise no-longer-available parts like a clutch release lever for a 959, but this is the most significant part we’ve seen come out of a printer yet.
These printed aluminum pistons aren’t ready for prime time yet, after all, at this point they take about 12 hours to print, in 1,200 layers. They have been run for 200 hours of endurance testing on the test bench, simulating 6,000 km of racing including 135 hours of full load and an average speed of 250 km/h.
No word on when they could see duty in the horizontally-opposed bores of a real 911.
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