How a 3D Printer Could Help Solve All Your Car Problems

How a 3D Printer Could Help Solve All Your Car Problems

I’m looking to get back into motorcycling, and that means digging out my Shoei RF-1200 helmet from the top shelf of my closet. It’s a great helmet, comfortable and protective in equal measure, but it has a flaw that I’ve always hated: A ridge, running across the front of the chin bar, that makes mounting a GoPro up front impossible.

That ridge means the bar won’t fit a flat-surface mount, so you need to find the closest area on the helmet that can — over on the side, inches back from the front of the helmet. That means using a patchwork of connectors, a menagerie of joints, to finagle a camera into a somewhat reasonable position.

Or, you can just buy a 3D printer, and your problems are solved.

How a 3D Printer Could Help Solve All Your Car ProblemsYou see this? This is bad. (Photo: Steve DaSilva)

Mounting one specific action camera on one specific helmet is an absurdly niche use case. No company would take the time out of its day to design, fabricate, and sell a specific mount for my Shoei — the market simply isn’t there. But if I can make a bracket myself, I’m not reliant on any company with a profit motive. I can just solve my problem.

These little nagging issues are some of the most aggravating parts of working on cars. The little plastic trim pieces that haven’t been in production since the nineties, the oddly-shaped wrenches needed to access tucked-away oil filters. These parts are so specific, so difficult to sell, that companies will never solve your problem. Other enthusiasts, however, will.

How a 3D Printer Could Help Solve All Your Car ProblemsThis? This is better. (Photo: Steve DaSilva)

I solved my little helmet camera problem by printing out a model that someone else had already designed. A simple GoPro clip, formed to fit the curves and ridges of my full-face helmet. It’s the same method I used to fix my Miata oil fill problem, my filter wrench problem, my centre console delete problem. It’s the same method you could use to fix your E36 trim clip problem, your B6 phone mount problem, or your Chrysler TC By Maserati fuel door release problem.

3D printing untethers you from economies of scale, and allows you to create real, tangible objects that no company would ever produce. For cars, that ranges from decades-old clips to custom-fit tools, all ready to help you out of a highly specific jam. 3D printers can be as cheap as $US100 ($139) (for the exact unit I have, I might add) and can save you a world of headaches when the ultra-specific tool you need suddenly appears on your print bed. Pick one up. You’ll thank me later.