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Jay Leno and Team Put 3D Systems End-To-End Manufacturing Technologies to the Test

3D scan to CAD from 3D Systems Geomagic Enables recreation of obsolete Automotive Part. 3D Systems Manufacturing Services allow rapid creation of precise, discrete parts

Fortunately, Jay and his team do not need to rely solely on traditional methods, but instead, employ cutting-edge technology to solve this problem. By implementing 3D scanning and 3D printing into their renovation workflow, they can create end-use parts and casting patterns for the vehicles. Not only is the technology providing massive benefits for vintage cars, it is also proving invaluable for one-of-a-kind and custom vehicles that do not have mass-produced parts stock available.

One such car, the EcoJet, is a concept vehicle that was hand-built by Jay’s team. The EcoJet features a 650 horsepower Honeywell gas turbine engine that runs on biodiesel fuel. It is basically a car wrapped around a jet engine, which means that it cannot be started inside the garage because of the jet wash it creates. 

“Because the EcoJet has to be pushed out of the garage and out of trailers at shows, it is easy for people to inadvertently lean on and break the vents that are installed just behind each door on the car,” explains Jim Hall, Chief Engineer at the Big Dog Garage.


Under normal circumstances these breakages would not be a problem – just take the original CAD data and 3D print a new version, right? However through a series of mishaps on the garage’s servers after the car was built, the CAD data for the EcoJet had been lost. After regularly repairing the parts by hand, Jim finally opted to bring his 3D scanning tools and software into play.

“Geomagic Design X is just that – magic!” observed Jim. “This software makes sense out of the 3D scan data, it’s super fast and it creates 3D models and then transports them into your CAD software as native files. In a matter of 30 minutes we have gone from no CAD data to having feature-based, editable 3D CAD data of the parts.”

The next step in the workflow is to 3D print the parts, which is easily done from the new CAD data. Since the old parts had broken very easily, Jim and his team consulted with 3D Systems On-Demand Parts Manufacturing Services, Quickparts, on what 3D printed materials would be better suited to avoid damage to the vents. Through this service, customers have access to all of 3D Systems’ print technologies and a range of materials, along with the application expertise of the 3D Systems team. 

“3D Systems Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) printing delivers very high strength and very light parts using the Duraform HST Nylon material,” said Ziad Abou from 3D Systems Quickparts. “We don’t want to increase weight on the car so we had to be careful to make the right choice.

With the 3D Systems software and hardware solutions, you can efficiently and accurately scan, design and produce high quality 3D data as well as physical parts, tools and products. The technologies include 3D scanners, engineering and production software, 3D printers and 3D inspection tools. They are also tuned to work with other vendors such as 3D scanner OEMs, like Faro, as well as support traditional manufacturing processes such as machining, injection molding and more.

Using a Faro scanning arm and 3D Systems Geomagic Design X software, Jim is able to quickly and accurately scan the shapes of the broken parts in 3D, and almost instantly recreate the parts using the solid modeling toolsets in Geomagic Design X. 

“Scanning using the Faro arm is close to perfect,” commented Jim. “The blue light scanning is incredibly accurate and can even work on shiny parts – something that has not been easy for 3D scanners in the past.”

Once the 3D model is checked for accuracy compared to the original scan data in the software, Geomagic Design X automatically transfers the data to 3D CAD – in this case, Autodesk Inventor – using the LiveTransfer function.

Duraform HST is a nylon 3D printing material that works specifically in 3D Systems’ SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) printers.  As a fiber-filled nylon with anisotropic mechanical properties, it is ideal for functional prototypes and end-use parts that require high stiffness and elevated thermal resistance and has a surface that is very easy to finish. SLS printers deliver very high quality, durable parts that are used in automotive, aerospace and other high-level engineering industries.

Although Jay’s garage is outfitted with 3D printers, it does not have the high-end SLS printers required for this job.  Instead, Jim and his team sent the data to 3D Systems, who both 3D printed and gave the parts a very high quality finish. The parts were then sent to the garage and immediately fitted to the EcoJet.

“This is amazing, how we just take 3D scans and come back with end-use parts that fit perfectly,” said Jay Leno. “We could never have done this without 3D Systems.”

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