Jay Leno, comedian and celebrity host of NBC’s The Tonight Show from 1992-2014, is almost as well known for his beloved classic car and motorcycle collection. Housed in Burbank, CA, the Big Dog Garage collection includes more than 200 cars and 100 motorcycles, all kept in pristine and fully drivable condition by Jay’s small team of top notch mechanics and engineers.

Since leaving the Tonight Show, Jay has been able to focus full-time on his car collection, making a point of driving five vehicles every day to keep them in road condition. Even with this level of attention paid to keep the vehicles in tip-top shape, parts inevitably break. Finding replacement parts for classic and hand-built cars, some of them more than 100 years old, is virtually impossible, and manufacturing new ones using traditional methods can get very costly, very quickly.

Restoring Jay Leno's Ecojet car with 3D scanning and 3D printing

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, reverse engineering 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. 

3D-Scanteile aus dem Ecojet-Fahrzeug von Jay Leno mit der Reverse-Engineering-Software Geomagic Design X

“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.

The replacement vent parts for jay leno's EcoJet car coming out of the SLS 3D printer

Die Software- und Hardwarelösungen von 3D Systems ermöglichen Ihnen das effiziente und präzise Scannen, Entwerfen und Erzeugen hochwertiger 3D Daten sowie physischer Teile, Werkzeuge und Produkte. Die Technologien umfassen 3D Scanner, Konstruktions- und Produktionssoftware, 3D Drucker und Werkzeuge zur 3D Inspektion. Sie sind auch auf eine Kompatibilität mit anderen Anbietern ausgelegt, z. B. Originalhersteller von 3D Scannern wie Faro, und unterstützen herkömmliche Fertigungsprozesse wie maschinelles Bearbeiten, Spritzgießen und vieles mehr.

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.

“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. 

Finished SLS 3D prints ready to be installed on Jay's EcoJet car

“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.”

Duraform HST ist ein 3D Nylon-Druckwerkstoff, der speziell auf SLS(Selektives Lasersintern)-Drucker von 3D Systems zugeschnitten ist.  Als fasergefülltes Nylon mit anisotropen mechanischen Eigenschaften eignet er sich ideal für funktionsfähige Prototypen und Endprodukte, die eine hohe Steifigkeit und erhöhte Wärmebeständigkeit erfordern und leicht zu veredelnde Oberflächen besitzen. SLS-Drucker liefern hochwertige, langlebige Teile für den Automobilbau, die Luft- und Raumfahrt sowie weitere anspruchsvolle Bereiche der Maschinenbauindustrie.

Obwohl Jays Garage mit 3D Druckern ausgestattet ist, verfügt sie nicht über die High-End-SLS-Drucker, die für diese Aufgabe erforderlich wären.  Stattdessen haben Jim und sein Team die Daten an 3D Systems gesendet, wo man die Teile in 3D druckte und ihnen ein äußerst hochwertiges Finish verlieh. Anschließend wurden die Teile wieder an die Garage geschickt und sofort in den EcoJet eingebaut.

“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.”