Additive manufacturing at Flyin' Miata
What's additive manufacturing? It's the process of building something by adding material, the opposite of milling down a piece of billet. You probably call it "3D printing".
We bought our first 3D printer back in 2013. It was a little high maintenance and the results were best suited for prototyping. That's what we used it for - almost every bracket, connector or milled product was refined in plastic before it went to production. This sped up our development process and led to improved products, as there's just no substitute for holding something in your hands.
Our new 3D printers, however, are for you. We'll use them for development, of course, but they're good enough to print parts you can actually use. And yes, printers in plural. We started with one, but demand for our new products had us buying more printers immediately.
Our printers are the Markforged Onyx One that prints a special composite called Onyx. It's a nylon that's reinforced by chopped carbon fibre. It has a great surface finish, but more importantly it can handle much higher heat than most 3D prints - approximately 100 degrees higher than nylon, 90 degrees more than PLA and 40 degrees higher than ABS. This means it can be used underhood.
It's also 1.4 times stronger than ABS and much stronger than non-reinforced nylon. Check this out! Onyx FR is Fire Resistant.
What does this mean to you?
It means we can bring more niche products to market. For example, replacement handles for broken dipsticks that simply snap on and won't burn your hands. Or replacement top lock caps for the 2003-05 Miatas after Mazda discontinued them. Our new door bushings are stiffer, lighter and less expensive than our previous models. These parts are ones that either would have to be made of billet (expensive!) or injection molded (high cost upfront, so not suitable for low volume parts). We're pretty excited about the possibilities here.