Automotive Case Studies

World Famous Car Shop West Coast Customs Kicks It Into 6th Gear with Artec 3D Scanners

Summary: The world’s most famous auto customization shop turned to 3D scanning to speed up workflows, increase accuracy, and open the door to new creative possibilities.

The Goal: To use a handheld 3D scanner to scan cars, auto parts, and various other components, then use the 3D models of these in CAD software for designing and creating unusual, top-of-the-line modified cars for celebrities and corporate clients.

Tools Used: Artec Eva, Artec Leo, Geomagic Design X, SOLIDWORKS

by Matthew McMillion
When they say, “If you can dream it, we can build it,” West Coast Customs isn’t joking around. On top of that, most of their builds are 1 of 1 Custom Builds. Early Monday mornings find their team of designers, technicians, fabricators, and painters gathered together in their 60,000 square foot (5,600 m2) shop and headquarters in Burbank, California to plan out the week ahead.

Synchronizing the efforts of two dozen specialists working on 30+ projects at any given time is a balancing act that would make an air traffic controller proud.

West Coast Customs achieved its fame early on by taking auto customization up to the next level. Whether that’s boosting a car’s horsepower, beefing up the suspension, giving it a dazzling paint job, thundering exhaust pipes, extra-wide wheels, Indy-500-level steering, or whatever body mods you can dream up, West Coast’s designers are ready to sit down with you, sketch it out, and literally set the wheels in motion.

Star Trek Polaris Slingshot vehicle in West Coast Customs’ showroom

A critical phase of the customization process is measuring a car and designing mods that blend perfectly with the car’s existing fascia, structure, components, and chassis. How West Coast Customs did this in the past was entirely by hand, and that meant rulers, calipers, tape measures, pencils and pens, etc.

Some parts are trickier than others. For example, doors, hoods, and bumpers are relatively easy to measure, but when it comes to fenders, grills, headlights, mirrors, and smaller, more complex objects with thin edges and curves, such as interiors and steering wheels, that’s where hand measurement really struggles.

It was painfully slow, with redo’s needed more often than not. As their plate of projects grew fuller, with deadlines becoming tighter, the old way was no longer acceptable. And that’s when they began to explore the possibilities of 3D scanning.

During a demo by the 3D scanning specialists from Artec Certified Reseller Rapid Scan 3D, the management at West Coast Customs saw that this was the edge they were looking for. They decided upon the Artec Eva, a professional structured-light 3D scanner that’s world-famous for its ability to quickly scan anything from auto parts to human bodies and deliver stunning, high-precision color 3D models in mere minutes.

“Once we saw what Eva could do for us in terms of its accuracy and speeding up the workflow, we were totally sold. Eva is a huge time saver for us, and we’re talking about saving us weeks in production man-hours every month,” said Lorenzo Strong, West Coast Customs’ VP of Sales. “All those hard-to-measure parts that took us hours to measure in the past? In just a few minutes, Eva scans everything in full color, way more precisely than by hand, and with no miscalculations.”

Whether they’re scanning an entire car, or just part of one, once they’ve finished scanning with Eva, they process the 3D scans in Artec Studio, and then export the 3D model over to Geomagic Design X or SOLIDWORKS. There they make the modifications, which can be anything from widening wheel wells, stretching the grill, lowering the body, or in the case of the Black Panther Lexus, also adding in the unforgettable touch of those Black Panther claws on the side view mirrors.

The final 3D models are then sent over to their CNC machine for milling, or to their 3D printer, or utilized as part of the project’s digital blueprints. They’ve also used their Eva to scan and reverse engineer legacy parts that are either extremely difficult to source, with long wait times and high asking prices, or even entirely unavailable.

Scanning a Porsche with Artec Leo

With a data acquisition speed of up to 3 million points/second and no need for target markers, plus the ability scan in anything from broad daylight to pitch darkness, Leo is truly the next generation of 3D scanner, which makes it perfect for West Coast Customs and their next level customizations.

He continued, “With Leo, we can just pick up and go. We can take it with us anywhere throughout the shop and it’s ready to scan, no laptop, no cables, everything’s built in. Even out in the parking lot or at a client’s location…it scans like a dream even on a bright summer day, full data capture from the first go.”

West Coast Customs is already expanding its use of 3D scanning across its innovative research and design workflows. According to Lorenzo Strong, “When they say ‘the sky is the limit,’ Artec Leo is second to none, and we’re really excited with what you’ve made it possible for us to do.”

Bringing a limited-edition 1919 Harley-Davidson back to life in the Netherlands

By Loretta Marie Perera

What’s delightful about this project isn’t how challenging it was, or how much expertise it required. On the contrary, it was a straightforward solution to a question that had been on the mind of one man for decades: How to get his vintage motorcycle ready to start and ride the streets with.

The conundrum was one day brought to Carl van de Rijzen of Visual First in the Netherlands, who has been working with Edwin Rappard of Artec Ambassador 4C Creative CAD CAM Consultants for over two years. Living on opposite ends of the country, the two have never met in person. “I send something to Edwin, he scans it, and sends it back!” said van de Rijzen. The same thing occurred in this case.

“A part from this 1919 Harley Davidson was broken,” he explained, “and the man who owned it had been working on the bike for about 50 years!” Given the vintage nature of the bike, two problems presented themselves: The replacement piece needed isn’t in circulation any longer, and even if sourcing from resellers was an option, it would come at a steep price and without any guarantee it would work adequately or fit perfectly. The part is not in use anymore but is essential for starting up the engine.

“He searched all over the world to find the replacement part,” van de Rijzen said, “and then, he came to me.”

While his company typically deals with reverse engineering, their solid connection with 4C gave this challenge an easy solution. The broken distributor cap was sent over one rainy Sunday, from southern Bergen op Zoom to northeastern Emmen, where 4C is based.

And even though the part was small, it was full of detail. “So, we had to use my all-time favorite: The Artec Space Spider!” said Rappard.

The Space Spider is an ideal choice for 3D scanning more complex sections of larger parts, or small objects with lots of intricate details. Capturing data that’s both high resolution and submillimeter accurate, the Space Spider is perfect for industrial and automotive use, providing scan data for everything from molding parts and machines, to vessel and automotive parts.

A comparison of the broken cap and the newly printed part

“He scanned it. He just fixed the problem, and that was really everything,” recalled van de Rijzen. “He sent it back. And, ta-da! It’s a 100-year-old bike, and now we have the part needed to make it work.” While the black surface of the part might initially look tricky to scan, this too ended up being straightforward. “The material was dark, but it wasn’t shiny, so it was pretty easy to scan,” said Rappard.

While the broken part was incomplete, Artec Studio software made it easy to fix – with the mirror feature, which recreates parts exactly as they are, but mirrored. “The part was symmetrical, so I used a copy of the scan that I mirrored to “glue” into the missing space,” he explained. “This would lead to the end result: A brand new part!”

The newly printed and now-functional distributor cap of the Harley

Next, the processed data was 3D printed, after which the part was presented to a thoroughly delighted and proud owner of a Harley that is now ready to ride. “It’s amazing that this can happen, what technology we have these days!” the proud bike-owner said, “It’s magic!”

While he now enjoys a weekly ride on Sunday mornings, this retiree has plans to keep the bike in the excellent condition it is now in, for good. After he’s had his fix of riding the vintage bike, he plans to put it on display for all to enjoy, providing it with a forever home in one of the Dutch museums.

“This is a good example of how and where scanning is crucial,” said Rappard. “When there is no new material available anywhere, you have to use the broken parts to scan and manufacture new items.” And thus a problem that spanned decades has finally met a solution – and provided a really fun challenge for all involved.

“Using new technology to fix old technology in all its glory! This was a real FUN thing to do,” said Rappard. “Working on such an aged Harley is a privilege, and using Artec for that is even more fun. How good can it get?

Driving Through The Outback with Artec Leo: All The Adventure, None Of The Diesel

Challenge: To create environmentally friendly Land Rovers made for embracing Australian culture both authentically and responsibly.

Solution: Converting old diesel Land Rovers into battery powered vehicles, using Artec Leo to scan the general infrastructure and chassis of the car for modification.

Result: A startup that converts, sells, and rents electric Land Rovers to individuals and businesses around Australia and beyond.

by Loretta Marie Perera

The sixth largest country in the world, Australia spreads over a massive 2.9 million square miles. With a population of just over 25 million people, about 85 percent of Australia’s population lives in proximity to its expansive coast, leaving a whole lot of room in the middle. This gives rise to some of Australia’s great adventures: a trip through the outback, or cruising along its gorgeous coast.

With all the off-road driving options available through an island so big it is not just a country but a continent, an SUV seems an obvious choice for your big Aussie adventure; an old classic Land Rover looks more at home here than anything else. But with today’s fight against climate change and a push for environmentally friendly alternatives, the Land Rover has something major working against it: the large amount of diesel it consumes, and the emissions it produces.

Meet Juniper, the first of Jaunt’s productions. (Image by Jaunt / Instagram)

“I’ve always loved exploring and hiking and four-wheel driving, and Australia is great for getting out into the bush,” said Dave Budge, CEO of Jaunt Motors. “But I felt a little guilty about burning a lot of diesel to go somewhere that has pristine air and beautiful surroundings. There’s a huge part of Australia – some of the most beautiful places there are – where there’s no way to get there other than a four-wheel drive.”

While a growing urgency on reducing carbon emissions looms, there were numerous reasons for developing a new way to explore the Australian bush. “You want to hear the birds and the wind – there’s an element you miss when you’re in a car because of the sound of a diesel engine,” Budge said. “And I just found myself wishing there was an electric four-wheel that I could buy.”

Artec Leo takes on an old Land Rover. (Image by Dave Budge / Jaunt)

The start of a new company began to take shape in a gap Budge identified: “I want an electric four-wheel drive, Australians are buying four-wheel drives almost exclusively, and yet there are no electric four-wheel drives to buy,” he said.

“Per capita, Australia has some of the worst transport emissions in the world, and it’s not just because we drive long distances – we have very inefficient, old cars, and laws don’t require regular checks for emissions that most other countries do,” Budge explained.

But this too leads to opportunity: “We have all these old cars on the road that create these emissions. But on the other hand, we have all these old cars that can be converted into EVs.”

Teaming up with Jaunt co-founder Marteen Burger in 2018, the pair combined their expertise and talents – Budge as a designer and creative director, Burger as a producer and production manager – and started to form a plan.

“The time was right, people have been converting cars for 10-15 years,” said Budge. “We were at a point where it wasn’t an engineering challenge – we knew it could be done – it was more of a design and user interface challenge.”

More than making it go, it was making sure they could fit everything in. (Image by Jaunt / Instagram)

The first step was buying a car and pulling it apart. “No two Land Rovers are the same – they’re all hand built,” said Budge. But with a ladder frame that the car is built around staying consistent, the basic dimensions have stayed the same for most of the last 70 years. These dimensions allowed the team to better understand how to fit everything in with some parts removed and some parts added – including ten large Tesla batteries selected for their energy efficiency and high density.

The plan: While tearing apart and rebuilding the car, to consider how new manufacturing techniques and modern precision could be used for improvement. “We’re not trying to redesign a car,” said Budge. “We’re trying to make this existing car drive better.”

For a task that required details down to the millimeter, 3D scanning was needed. “A 3D model of a Land Rover chassis just didn’t exist,” Budge said. “And even if it did, it wouldn’t include all the dimensions and protrusions and things that get added during the manufacturing process.”

It was at this point that 3D scanning experts in Victoria were called in.

“Our Team at Thinglab were initially approached by Jaunt to see what options were available to create a digital model of one of their Land Rover chassis,” said Ben Myers from Artec’s Gold Certified Partner Thinglab. “Of course we jumped at the chance of being involved in this project and could quickly see that the requirements were calling out for the Artec Leo to be used.”

A 3D model of a Land Rover’s chassis.

“For a project such as this, a massive amount of planning and design is required, with every line and curve considered, every arc or box section catered to,” explained Myers. “Fitting componentry, ensuring clearances and working out placement is always one of the challenges, and this requires accurate measurements and plans.”

A scanner like no other, Artec Leo allows accuracy of up to 0.1mm and has the most intuitive workflow with onboard processing and a built-in display. Used wirelessly, scanning with Artec Leo is as easy as taking a video on your mobile phone, while real-time display allows the user to quickly capture any areas they might have missed. This makes it a great solution for vehicles of all sorts and areas that are difficult to reach.

Leo’s features came in very handy. (Image by Dave Budge / Jaunt)

“There were a number of applications planned for the scan data, but the most crucial thing was to provide an accurate STL file which could be used in CAD,” Myers said. “This data could then be used to reverse engineer sections and provide a reference to design around.”

A color mesh file was also made which allowed for renders and image creation. With Artec Studio, a high-resolution color OBJ along with a heavily decimated file more manageable for CAD packages were easily produced.

“Scanning a chassis can be challenging as there are a lot of occlusions and in this case we needed a full model meaning scanning from multiple angles,” said Myers. “It was also quite low to the ground with not much clearance so we needed to utilize Leo’s inverted scanning and on-board display which helped, and saved a huge amount of time.”

Using the scanned chassis as a template of sorts, the Jaunt team can now work on a wide range of vehicles and expand their business further still.

“Leo let us scan this really quickly, and allowed us to have that resolution and that flexibility in the middle of our workshop,” said Budge. “We needed this to know that we could actually build our production vehicle.”

A 3D model allows the team to effectively select where the large Tesla batteries the car will run on can be placed.

With two cars successfully converted – the first was made for Mountain Ridge Winery who created a new wine in honor of their new car – more plans targeted at vacation destinations such as wineries, breweries and hotels are taking shape. “What we can do here is to create something that is inspiring and gets people excited about Electric Vehicles in a way that they never considered before,” Budge said.

And with more than 150 days of rental already booked in advance, and five more cars in the pipeline for early next year, Jaunt is just getting started with more scanning to be done yet. “While the basic platform was the same from 1958 to 2016,” Budge explained, “there are a lot of variants that we need to account for as we take up every square millimeter fitting batteries.”

“This is a great project that is exciting in the sense that it gives new life to an icon which is very well-loved,” said Myers. “It was also a great opportunity to showcase Leo and demonstrate how it can be utilized.”