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How 3D Printing Helps Keep Nelson Racing Engines On A Fast Track

Nelson Racing Engines located in Chatsworth, California is a full-service machine shop that specializes in twin turbo engines and complete vehicle builds. Since 2007, owner Tom Nelson has adopted 3D printing technology to combat the growing competitive industry.

Utilizing 3D printing technology, this gives NRE the opportunity to print mockup turbo parts, and even prototype components quickly and affordable.

“Once you start designing things in CAD and then have an avenue actually to print those ideas in a low-cost manner, versus machining them out of billet, it opens up a whole new world. You can easily check fitments and have the actual part in your hand to evaluate rather than just seeing it in a program,” Nelson stated. He added that components that will ultimately be machined out of the aluminum can be perfected and test fitted on the printed stage.

There is a variety of printing media filament that ranges in strength that can be used to print parts. Most commonly, carbon fiber filament is used to create gauge clusters, switches, and grilles in as little as 20 minutes. Each spool of filament cost around $40 to $70, which allows it to be cost-effective.

NRE owns two Lulzbot 3D printers, and depending on the complexity of the piece can have them run 30-40 hours. Nelson said, “You load the program, and then you go home. When you come back, there’s a little ‘presto’ part in there.”

Already have a full-time CAD/CAM technician on site, moving into 3D printing was a smooth learning curve. Nelson commented that “if you have programs, anybody in the shop can run it. It’s really almost that easy.”

One of Nelsons’ larger printers offer a 12×12 footprint, but the future holds larger machines. “with a bigger footprint, we could do reverse molds and then pull carbon fiber parts out of them for door panels, dashes, even body kits. So that’s our next step,” said Nelson.

About the author

Dimitri Lazaris

Dimitri keeps it traditional: he shoots 35mm film and races a ’58 dragster.
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