It is well known that Jay Leno is an avid car enthusiast and has a world-renowned collection of nearly 300 vehicles. What isn’t as well known is that his team does their own car repair and utilizes 3D printing for replacement parts. It can be difficult and costly finding parts for vintage cars that ended final production many years ago. Most car collectors don’t have enough vehicles to justify experimenting with 3D part design and production. Specialty replacement parts providers are few and far between. Waiting for a few parts can tie up a garage repair bay for a long time. Jay Leno is showing the auto industry how to address these issues with 3D printing. Companies and individuals engaged in the classic car business are eligible for R&D tax credits.
The Research & Development Tax Credit
Enacted in 1981, the now permanent Federal Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit allows a credit that typically ranges from 4%-7% of eligible spending for new and improved products and processes. Qualified research must meet the following four criteria:
- Must be technological in nature
- Must be a component of the taxpayer’s business
- Must represent R&D in the experimental sense and generally includes all such costs related to the development or improvement of a product or process
- Must eliminate uncertainty through a process of experimentation that considers one or more alternatives
Eligible costs include US employee wages, cost of supplies consumed in the R&D process, cost of pre-production testing, US contract research expenses, and certain costs associated with developing a patent.
On December 18, 2015, President Obama signed the PATH Act, making the R&D Tax Credit permanent. Beginning in 2016, the R&D credit can be used to offset Alternative Minimum Tax, for companies with revenue below $50MM and for the first time, pre-profitable and pre-revenue startup businesses can obtain up to $250,000 per year in payroll taxes and cash rebates.
The large auto manufacturers and their suppliers have experimented with 3D part design but to date have not yet evolved to volume production. Leno serves as an additional auto parts design incubator and an example the auto industry can learn from.
Other Classic Car Part Designer Examples
Porsche is among the leaders in manufacturing specialized high-performance sports vehicles, and has been doing so for nearly 90 years. Porsche is integrating 3D printing to keep their older model vehicles running and eliminate expensive tooling and storage costs for numerous classic Porsche models. Cars such as the 1986 Porsche 959 where only 292 were built require special parts that do not exist anymore and would take a series of complex tooling to acquire a necessary part. With Porsche’s digital fabrication processes, they can simply scan and print a single part instead of producing numerous small run expensive components that require entire tooling mechanisms. Porsche is currently utilizing 3D printing to print eight other components from plastic or steel and is testing whether 3D printing can be used to reproduce many more components.
Mercedes-Benz is a global automobile marquee known for their luxury vehicles and trucks that has been a consistent adopter of the latest technology to improve upon their past, present and future product lines. Mercedes-Benz can essentially print any part for any car they’ve ever built just as long as they have the schematics or part in hand to duplicate it. Customers are closer now to having access to a large catalog of replacement or custom parts that Mercedes can print and ship in a short amount of time. The utilization of 3D printing removes the overhead of machining expensive parts and tools while setting up a market to sell what were once very expensive parts, for a fraction of the cost.
Freshmade 3D in Ohio is a team of highly skilled individuals with extensive experience in additive manufacturing, materials and processes, industrial design and reverse engineering. They strive to provide precious antique and valuable classic car parts that become increasingly difficult to find every day through the use of 3D printing methods, and are poised to lead the industry in serving restoration and custom automotive markets. With few alternatives for finding a classic car replacement part, Freshmade 3D gives enthusiasts a valuable option to use additive manufacturing to engineer quality parts or prototypes that would be much more expensive if the parts were to be machined. Freshmade 3D offers a wide range of materials and small-medium scale manufacturing that will satisfy most car part needs.
PartWorks is a 3D printing and CNC machining company out of Georgia that uses the latest technology to deliver the best manufactured parts for many of the leading industries. PartWorks has become especially adept in the vintage car sector where they are capable of engineering obsolete and custom parts that cannot be found in production today. PartWorks is unique because they utilize precision laser scanners, 3D printers, CNC machining and injection molds/stamps that allow their customers the options of having the part made in house or offering an open format file of a 3D model that can be printed or edited by the customer themselves.
GRYP is a French startup that is using 3D printing to create classic car parts on-demand in an attempt to reduce restoration costs. Their goal is to allow collectors to restore their vintage cars at a consistent and affordable cost to continue the prestigious heritage of such vehicles. GRYP works with numerous automobile clubs and associations, spare parts distributors, and local 3D printing companies in an attempt to integrate large scale 3D printing not only to the classic car sector but to the automotive industry as a whole.
The world had enjoyed Jay Leno’s humor for many years. Now he’s bringing his expertise and creativity to provide design leadership for the automotive industry while having his own fun. Even though Leno retired from late night public television, he still continues his on-camera appearances with his own YouTube channel called Jay Leno’s Garage, dedicated to 3D printing and cars, and has garnered more than 2 million subscribers as he spreads the benefits of utilizing 3D printing.
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Charles Goulding & Ryan Donley of R&D Tax Savers discuss automotive 3D printing.