KW Heritage restores ultra-rare Alfa Romeo Tipo sports car with 3D scanning, AM

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There is no question that additive manufacturing has been a dream technology for restorers of vintage or rare cars. Our latest example of how the two fields have overlapped beautifully is coming from the Goodwood Revival automotive festival, where an ultra-rare, fully restored Alfa Romeo Tipo 33/3 sports car will be on show.

The Alfa Romeo Tipo 33/3 to be on display, one of only 12 that was ever manufactured, was painstakingly restored by KW Heritage, a specialized division of KW Special Projects (KWSP) which offers new engineering solutions for the Heritage market. In a recent blog post, the company describes how additive manufacturing played a critical role in the rare 1970s sports car.

Before we dive into the restoration, let’s first look at the sports car’s origins. Italian vehicle manufacturer Alfa Romeo first introduced its Tipo sports car in 1967, but it became most popular in 1971 when it participated at the races in Buenos Aires, Sebring and Brands Hatch. The iconic car, which was made in a limited series of just a dozen, even had a role to play in the 1971 Steve McQueen film Le Mans.

Alfa Romeo Tipo Despite the car’s success in the early 1970s, the rare car model suffered from deterioration—especially of the front engine cover—which led to problems with the ignition. As with most rare vehicles, replacement parts for the Alfa Romeo Tipo were hard to come across and eventually became obsolete.

Fast forward to today, however, and technologies such as 3D scanning, CAD software and additive manufacturing are enabling engineering to more easily reverse engineer parts. We’ve seen it happen before, but we never tire of hearing how special cars are being brought back to their former glory with the help of 3D printing.

In this case, KWSP used CAD, 3D scanning and additive manufacturing to recreate the Tipo’s engine cover. This process resulted in a proof of concept replacement part for the car.

“With key components and interfaces scanned, and the part re-designed and prototyped in just a few days, the Alfa’s engine cover shows how quickly the digital remanufacturing process can take for historic and classic vehicles with parts that have become obsolete,” writes KWSP on its website. “Adhering to the letter and spirit of FIA certification, this effective remanufacturing process has the capability to help resurrect the vehicles of the past.”

Excitingly, the restored sports car will be on display at the upcoming Goodwood festival from September 7th to 9th. There, visitors can see the ultra-rare Tipo in all its glory, as well as experience a live demonstration of the 3D scanning process used in the restoration. KW Heritage says it will have technicians performing the demonstration at the event every few hours.

“Obsolescence is a major issue in the classic and historic vehicle market but modern engineering techniques offer a timely and effective solution,” added Edward Smith, head of heritage engineering at KW Heritage. “At KW Heritage, we provide modern engineering and manufacturing solutions to the heritage market, from components through to full vehicles. By working closely with teams, restorers, collectors and vehicle owners, we are helping enthusiasts strike the perfect balance between old and new, with modern engineering techniques keeping the cars of yesteryear on the road for longer.”

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Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault is a Montreal-based content writer and editor with five years of experience covering the additive manufacturing world. She has a particular interest in amplifying the voices of women working within the industry and is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM sector. Tess holds a master's degree in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

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