Feb 19, 2016 | By Alec

All photos: 3D Systems.

Top-of-the-range 3D printers can already be found in the design centers of several major car manufacturers, but one well-known car lover is now using the technology for manufacturing actual replacement parts for his unique car. Comedian Jay Leno, the host of NBC’s The Tonight Show from 1992-2014, is one of the few celebrities who is almost as well known for his love of cars as for his actual work. With the help of a design team, he actually created the EcoJet concept car – a flashy car built around a jet engine. Unfortunately, several parts are prone to break quickly, so he has teamed up with 3D Systems to quickly 3D scan and 3D print replacement parts.

As you might know, Leno actually has an extensive car and motorcycle collection, all housed in Burbank, California in the Big Dog Garage – featuring more than 200 cars and 100 motorcycles. It’s therefore hardly surprising to learn that he employs a staff of mechanics and engineers to keep everything in perfect condition. Since retiring, the comedian has been able to devote all of his attention to his favorite hobby, and has been looking for ways to solve a particularly frustrating problem that touches every classic car collector: how do you find replacement parts for cars that haven’t been in production for decades? Of course, you could just commission new parts, but these usually become very costly very quickly when opting for traditional car manufacturing processes. But by turning to 3D Systems’ top level 3D scanning and 3D printing workflow, they can create custom low-cost casting patterns for those missing parts – a technique that is proving invaluable for servicing Leno’s fleet of classic cars.

However, it is also very suitable for one-of-a-kind cars for the same reason. Leno’s team previously built the very intriguing EcoJet car – which you might have seen showcased at a car convention near you. Featuring a 650 horsepower Honeywell gas turbine engine that runs on biodiesel fuel, it is essentially a car powered by a jet engine. This means it cannot even be started inside a garage and needs to be pushed into open spaces, but exactly that pushing is detrimental to it. “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.

To make matters worse, the original CAD files for the EcoJet were lost in a server problem. So after fixing the vents by hand several times, Hall decided it was time to turn to 3D scanning. 3D Systems’ 3D scanning solutions, which include top rate engineering, inspection and production software as well, are also compatible with other scanners – such as the Faro scanning arm. Using one of those arms and 3D Systems’ Geomagic Design X software, Hall was able to scan the broken parts and quickly recreate 3D printable replacements. “Scanning using the Faro arm is close to perfect,” he said. “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.”

That model was subsequently checked and transferred to Autodesk Inventor software to be 3D printed. “Geomagic Design X is just that – magic!” Hall argued. “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.”

Using 3D Systems’ on-demand Quickparts SLS 3D printing option, the Cad files were 3D printed in durable Duraform HST Nylon material, which is better suited to withstand stress. Though Leno’s garage actually has several 3D printers in-house, none could work with such a material. Importantly, that nylon material is very lightweight as well. As a fiber-filled material with anisotropic mechanical properties, it is a perfect option for functional prototypes and end-use parts that are exposed to stress and higher temperatures.

Leno was very impressed with the results, and the parts fitted perfectly on the EcoJet. “This is amazing, how we just take 3D scans and come back with end-use parts that fit perfectly,” he said. “We could never have done this without 3D Systems. With 3D printing the automotive industry has changed more in the last ten years than it did throughout the entire last century. We are pleased to be positioned at the forefront of this technology with 3D Systems.”



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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