11:17 AM

Mohawk solves the mystery of the missing car part, with a little help from the future

It’s not every day that Simon Coulson gets a call asking for his help to restore a 1923 Rolls-Royce.

After all, as manager of Mohawk’s Additive Manufacturing Resource Centre (AMRC), Coulson spends more time creating the future than replicating the past, working with manufacturing and aerospace companies that are interested in using 3D printing technology on an industrial scale.

So he was caught off guard when he got a call from a local car collector about a vintage car located in New Zealand.

The ask? Help reproduce rare headlight stanchions for the restoration of a 1923 Rolls-Royce. The stand-alone replacement parts were proving to be impossible to find, but a perfect match for the headlight stanchions happened to be attached to another vintage Rolls-Royce, this one in Ontario- and fortunately located right around the corner from Mohawk College.

So, the collector asked, can Mohawk help produce 3D scans of the Ontario-based part that can then be used to create the replicas in New Zealand?

The answer was yes.

For Coulson, it was the perfect job to help the AMRC’s co-op students understand a common challenge in additive manufacturing: how to reverse engineer an existing part using 3D scanning and then manufacture it using 3D printing. Mechanical Engineering student Stephanie Childs spent two weeks scanning the headlight stanchions using the Engineering Technology’s FaroArm. This generated a surface model via 3D line scanning to create a CAD model that would accurately reproduce a part manufactured 93 years ago.

Once Mohawk’s role was complete, the 3D model was sent to New Zealand, where a more geographically convenient 3D printer produced the plastic parts. The final stage was the creation of a pattern from the plastic parts that was used to create the brass replicas.

The result?

A perfect 20th century car part that could only have been produced in the 21st century.


The following is an excerpt from the Rolls-Royce Owner Club, Inc, USA (RROC) February newsletter, that tells the story of the car restoration:

“Clive explained he was in the process of continuing a long-stalled restoration of a 1923 Rolls-Royce 20 HP, chassis GF3, a car with a long history in Australia. Apart for more than 20 years it had made its way from Australia to New Zealand in a container, so as you might expect between being disassembled for a generation and having been moved numerous times, a few pieces had gone missing.

Among the parts Clive needed were a set of headlight stanchions. He reached out to other members of the RROC to see if they might happen to have a spare set. Now, to be honest, there are probably not a lot of headlight stanchion hoarders in the Club, and it is not the kind of part that the factory was likely to have produced for inventory. You just do not get a lot of demand for headlight stanchions. But Clive asked, and Peter, a member from Ontario, Canada contacted Clive and sent photos of the ones from his car. They were off the car and could easily be photographed from virtually every angle. But that was not all! Once they realized these were the right parts, Peter reached out to a local community college that was able to produce 3D scans, which he then sent to Clive.

Armed with the photos and the 3D scan, Clive set out to find someone with a 3D printer to produce the parts in resin, which could then be used to produce a pattern from which brass stanchions could be cast. All of this was new both to Peter in Canada and Clive in New Zealand (and me in Mechanicsburg). But, armed with the scans, Clive found a company with a 3D printer who quoted him about $300 to make the two plastic stanchions. A bit put off by that quote, he did a bit more research on the web and found a Dutch organization named "3D Hub" whose stated objective was to have a member with a 3D printer within 50 miles of every customer around the world! It turned out that there was a member located less than a mile from Clive who had a 3D printer in his spare bedroom and agreed to produce the two plastic stanchions for approximately $50!

Tell me that we are not living in amazing times! Can you imagine a man living in New Zealand restoring a 100 year old car, built in England, operated in Australia, with the help of a fellow RROC member in Canada, using technology supported by an organization in Holland? I guess that is just one more reason to join a car club.”


About the Author: Andrea Johnson is the Promotions and Industry Liaison Officer for iDeaWORKS.

Follow iDeaWORKS on Twitter @mohawkideaworks

About Mohawk

Mohawk College educates and serves more than 29,500 full-time, part-time, apprenticeship and international students at three main campuses in Hamilton, Ontario and learning hubs across Hamilton through City School by Mohawk, and at the College’s Centre for Aviation Technology at the Hamilton International Airport. Mohawk is among the top five colleges for applied research in Canada. It has been named one of Canada’s greenest employers seven years in a row, holds a GOLD STARS rating from AASHE for sustainability achievements and is home to the country’s largest and first institutional building to receive dual certification for Zero Carbon Building Framework design and performance for The Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation. More than 135,000 people have graduated from Mohawk since it was founded.