3D Print Technology and Motorcycle Tooling

by Paul Nishihira

Since purchasing my Ducati in 1996, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with it.  When the weather is right, the motorcycle is freshly detailed, and the engine mechanics are in complete adjustment, there is no better feeling in the world like aggressively shifting through gears at wide-open throttle cresting an apex of a turn while dragging knee on a back country road.3DP & Motorcycle Tooling

The downside to Ducati ownership is the required frequent maintenance:

  • Incessant wear and tear of a racing dry clutch
  • Multiple cold start attempts due to having racing carburetors
  • Endless adjustments of the desmodromic valve assembly
  • Replacement of the fragile camshaft belts

Enter 3D Print Technology

I have a soft spot for spending countless hours creating tangible items from blocks or rounds of metal in a machine shop.  However, when reducing time-to-market, minimizing cost, or more importantly, returning my Ducati motorcycle to road-worthy condition, 3D Print Technology is the “go-to” additive manufacturing process to create parts, assemblies and tooling in many industries.

Interested in learning more about 3D Printing? Take a look at these videos:  3D Printing 101, 3D Printing 201 and 3D Printing 301

3D Print Technology + Motorcycle Tooling

Every two 2 years or 6000 miles, I replace the camshaft belts with new ones.  Failure to do so is gambling with the potential of belt breakage or failure.  The final output is typical damage to the unique desmodromic valve train components, the engine pistons and sometimes the engine cylinders.  Its net value is equal to a boat anchor sinking fast in the deep blue Pacific Ocean.

Since the camshaft pulley is under tension, I challenged myself to create a tool or adapter that will easily rotate the camshaft pulley by using a wrench.  Also in mind, is to create a tool to prevent bloody knuckles or bleeding fingers during the process.

Based on that criteria, I chose Fused Deposition Modeling, offered by the Stratasys uPrint SE Plus as a cost-effective choice for this application.

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Camshaft Pulley and Camshaft Belt

Collecting Information

Utilizing my trusty dial calipers, I documented critical dimensions from the camshaft pulley as baseline information to incorporate into my SOLIDWORKS model.

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With the design phase complete, I converted the SOLIDWORKS model to STL format and directly opened that STL file inside the intuitive, user-friendly CatalystEX software which interfaces with the Stratasys uPrint SE Plus 3D printer.3DP & Motorcycle Tooling 5
Check out the office workhorse for all things 3D printed!

Stratasys uPrint SE Plus

Stratasys uPrint SE Plus

Post-Cleanup and Ready for Installation!

After careful separation from the base tray and a solution bath to dissolve excess support material, the 3D printed tool held tolerances within .005 of an inch (total) as compared to the SOLIDWORKS model.

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Functionality and Durability!

The 3D printed tool as installed with mounting hardware on my Ducati motorcycle. No more bloody knuckles or bleeding fingers!

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After multiple usage of this tool on both the vertical and horizontal camshaft pulleys, I am quite satisfied with its durability and functionality.  In terms of saving time, what normally would be 20 minutes (on average) of fiddling by hand for that “perfect adjustment” has now been reduced to 5 minutes.  This translates into more motorcycle riding time for me!

This tool has also served as a catalyst for conversation with other “backyard” Ducati enthusiasts about the features and benefits of 3D Printing Technology, SOLIDWORKS and other services which GoEngineer provides.

Happy riding!

4 thoughts on “3D Print Technology and Motorcycle Tooling

  1. AvatarBogdan

    Hi, I’m looking for a clutch holding tool and, since I live far-far away, shipping would take five to six weeks. Also, the Ducati dealer cannot sell me one, since that’s a service tool, not meant for clients. Do you happen to have a 3D model of that or maybe you know where to get one?

  2. AvatarSarah Cherry Jumel

    I want to make a 3d printed version of Lonesome George [not the whole thing, just part of the shell, the head, and rear end w/tail] I’d prefer it to be life size, with a sort of saddle affair which will conceal me within it [my legs will be the front legs of the tortoise, which will be mounted on wheels to move about. My upper body will have to have some space, so the need for the saddle affair. Not sure how to make this work, visually . . . .] I was going to purchase the 3d model from Turbosquid, and alter it for my needs. I also have an existing tortoise that fits over a tadpole trike [can send image] but need to make feet and a new head [existing one was made by an old vent puppet maker, now dead, and it is too heavy for my needs.]
    Let me know if you all can assist.

  3. AvatarJed Mokwenaotsile

    This technology is the smartest, and it can speed up the rate of manufacturing growth especially in developing countries. African countries like Botswana need it most, more like any other country because its a consuming country at the moment.


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