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A Programmer from New Zealand Is 3D Printing a Rare Aston Martin for $5,000

Ivan Sentch admittedly has limited experience in 3D printing and only started building his replica in late December, but says he's already printed three-quarters of the sections comprising the body of the famed four-door.
July 30, 2013, 11:40pm
Image via Ivan Sentch's blog

It's something straight out of Skyfall. Ivan Sentch, a programmer from New Zealand, is recreating the iconic sportscar right in his bedroom with little more than a second-generation 3D printer and some old fashioned ambition. Sentch admittedly has limited experience in 3D printing and only started building his replica in late December, but says he's already printed three-quarters of the sections comprising the body of the famed four-door.

To call the Aston Martin DB4 "rare" would be an understatement. The British auto manufacturer produced only about 1,200 DB4's between 1958 and 1963, and would use the 240 horse-powered whip as a basis for future Aston Martin vehicles like the DB5 and Lagonda Rapide. A real DB4 will set you back as much as $1.6 million. Sentch's plans to make his own top out at less than $5,000.


According to his blog, Snetch will fashion his 3D-printed ride like the 1961 series II DB4 -- a fiberglass body, an engine pulled from his own 250 GTO replica, and a space-frame chassis utilizing mechanical parts from a Nissan Skyline GTS25T, which appaerntly cannot be designed until he measures the suspension. Eventually he'll ship the car to a professional welder to complete the job before personalizing the interior, potentially with dashboards and other accoutrements made by his Solidoodle printer.

In an interview with Solidoodle, Sentch noted that while "this sort of project is not uncommon," most DIY designers usually build the plug, or body shape, out of foam. Sentch will use fiberglass printed off of MDF shapes and onto paper to design the plug before making a fiberglass mold and casting the body from the mold. Originally he was told that the typical computer numerical control cut (CNC-cut) used to shape this sort of plug would cost up to $15,000 NZD. After looking into 3D printing as a cheaper and viable alternative, he found that it would cost only $2,000 in plastic plus the printer cost, which goes for $500 USD.

Sentch only has 28 percent of the body left to print, but he explained that "there will be endless months of work once it’s all assembled before I can take a mold (applying auto filler, sanding, repeat..until it has a glassy finish)." Still, he'll have an Aston Martin for a fraction of what it would typically cost. He's a programer by trade, sure, but the Kiwi claims that he is a "noob" when it comes to 3D printing. He has used CAD for years, but never to aid 3D printed objects, to say nothing of objects at this level of complexity.

Sean Connery as James Bond with the Aston Martin DB5

It's been a long time coming. Sentch has been dreaming of this project for six years, and says that it is surprisingly not time consuming. He "clicks a few buttons" to make prints each morning, and clicks a few more before going to bed. It takes a few hours a week, though all the sanding and gluing is what eats up a lot of time.

To be sure, Sentch is not the first person to use 3D printers to build a car, or even an Aston Martin. Last year, the effects crew of Skyfall hired a company called Voxeljet to use a massive 3D printer to build three separte models of the 1960 Aston Martin DB5 that appeared in the original Bond movies of the 60s. The replicas were one-third the size of the original car, and were built out of 18 components that allowed it to have features like opening doors. There have since been reports that one of the models was destroyed in a stunt explosion, suggesting why the company chose 3D printed replicas over expensive insurance policies needed to use original DB5s.

A few recent studies estimate how much money individuals can save by using 3D printers over buying the real things. In one experiment out of Michigan Technical University, a team of researchers purchased 20 common household items found on Thingiverse. The researchers marked the maximum and minimum cost of buying the 20 objects before determining the cost of making the same objects using a 3D printer. Their findings suggested that "it would cost the typical consumer from $312 to $1,944 to buy those 20 things compared to $18 to make them in a weekend [with a 3D printer]."

Building a sportscar from scratch may be more tedious than printing some dishes, of course. But the amount one savvy automobile afficiando could save might be worth all that sanding.