3D Scanning Helps Restore An Automotive Classic

The Volkswagen T1 Transporter is a cult classic. It not only conquered the hearts of Europeans but Americans as well by becoming one of the most iconic symbols of the hippie movement in the 1970s. The development of this marvel of automotive history officially began in 1950 and just four years later more than one hundred thousand Transporters has taken to the road.

Despite passing years the popularity of the T1 Transporter has not diminished. The German Classic still retains a huge following of enthusiasts, collectors and businesses that deal in restoring Transporters to their former glory. One such company is Germany based ‘Soul Cars’ who handle renovations of antique cars.

Manufacturing of the T1 Transporter ended in 1967. There is a flourishing second-hand market in Transporters but even the most well preserved units can be in need of repairs and in addition, for a car to be considered an antique, it must contain a minimum of 75% original parts. Soul Cars deals only in renovating vehicles with documented history to ensure that its customers purchased vehicle is completely genuine.

After months of searching, Soul Cars managed to locate an acceptable T1 Transporter for restoration. Unfortunately, it was inoperable and in need of a variety of repairs, including mechanical and bodywork. Among the elements needing bodywork repair was the center B pillar which separates the driver’s door from the back section of the vehicle. After performing a full examination it turned out that the originally equipped component was no longer fulfilling its designed function by not holding its strength parameters and thus needed to be replaced in its entirety. Not an easy task as brand new parts have been out of stock for decades and the secondary market offers a limited choice. In addition, with the B pillar being an integral part of the vehicle’s bodywork finding an acceptable replacement was close to impossible.

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Given the situation reverse engineering was deemed the solution to recreate the original part by performing accurate scanning of the damaged element’s geometry allowing generation of exact data for preparing necessary reproduction tooling. Soul Cars decided on using a certified 3D metrology scanner from SMARTTECH to acquire the pillar B component data needed.

SMARTECH 3D scanners are permanently calibrated for a single volume with the handheld device being able to perform measurements not only in the laboratory but also in the field. Since no recalibration in needed, saving considerable time, and ensuring that the environment doesn’t affect the calibration process.

The very bad condition of the corroded part necessitated the need for the part to be sprayed with titanium oxide to cover the surface corrosion and ‘matt-out’ remaining shiny surface areas that could result in creating unintended reflections. Due to the fact that the object was thin-walled, and the full part geometry required, magnetic geometrical markers were attached to the component making it easier for the software to properly stitch individual scans patches together.

Measurement with the SMARTECH 3D scanner is based on examining the curvature of the projection of patterns displayed on the part surface; their deformation registered by an in-built detector in the scanning head. During the measurement a cloud of points is generated with each points representing geometrical data described via X,Y,Z coordinates which can be used to recreate the parts data.

Due to the shape of the pillar approximately twenty scans from different angles were performed in order to generate the precise 3D model. Full measurement of the B pillar from both sides took about an hour and a half and indicated, due to a previous repair B Pillar, the pillar no longer retained the manufacturer’s original geometry.

After completion of the scanning process the results were cleaned of generated ‘noise’ in the point cloud using the automatic function in SMARTECH3D measuring software supplied with the scanner. A singular point cloud from the merged scans a triangular mesh was subsequently generated and transferred to Geomagic Design X software for further processing.

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The digital model of the new pillar was generated without scanned errors, caused from the parts corrosion, in Geomagic X and a cross-section of pillar B created enabling accurate dimensioning and preparation of technical documentation together with a complete CAD model subsequently used by Soul Cars to produce the die to manufacture the replacement part.

For more information: www.smarttech3d.com