Girl Gang Garage: Iron Maven Custom Car Build and 3D Printing Update

Car Mechanic Bogi Latiener is seen through the sunroof opening of the Iron Maven custom build car project

We figured this would happen, but it’s still pretty cool to hear Bogi Lateiner of MotortrendTV fame talk about 3D printing: “Total game changer! I’m SO on board.”

Time for a major update on the Iron Maven Volvo custom-build project underway at Girl Gang Garage in Phoenix AZ. If you’ve been following this one-of-a-kind effort led by Bogi, you know she and her volunteer crew have been merging the body of a classic 1961 Volvo PV544 with the chassis of a brand-new 2019 Volvo S60 hybrid vehicle. Clearly, this is not your normal custom build. Then add COVID-related delays plus the hunt for rare parts or parts that simply do not exist due to merging two radically different vehicles. No wonder some design elements have been changing weekly.

For more than a year now, PADT has been privileged to assist with both 3D scanning and 3D printing on the custom build, as the group’s use of a digital workflow grows. Last year we scanned the entire PV544 body, as well as sections of both the PV544 and the S60. Every few months, the Girl Gang team finds a new way to leverage this scanned data, whether just making judgements from the visual shape, extracting useful “as is” dimensions or using the converted STL file to print actual parts with their Stratasys F370 FDM 3D printer.

The original S60 door handle cover (top), the original antenna cover (middle, marked up with scanning dots), and the antenna unit itself (bottom). (Images courtesy PADT Inc.)

Here are the elements and sections where scanning/printing have been used so far. The applications range from a planning guide for where to cut next, to printing prototypes and creating end-use parts:

  • Printed rooftop antenna-cover (overlaid scanned data on a photo, so new design matches base curvature)
  • Printed rear-facing camera mount (the base needs to be curved, not flat, to fit its new location on the trunk)
  • Door handles (printed cutting guide for existing handle plus actual printed cosmetic cover)
  • Dashboards (scans guide where/how to cut down the plastic dash as well as the aluminum mounting-frame)
  • Front suspension work (printed adapter/temporary jig for new coilover placement)

Small Things Matter

Since small details matter as much as the large ones, Anne Pauley of the Iron Maven CAD team started by defining parameters for the new antenna housing. The scanned data (acquired with a GOM Tscan hawk handheld laser-scanner) was overlaid with a photo of the PV544 curved roofline, to guide the new design done in Autodesk Fusion 360 CAD software.

The antenna in its new rooftop home; now it needs a new cover. (Image courtesy of PADT Inc.)

Whatever the final exterior shape, the interior geometry has to neatly fit over the vertical fin that houses the antenna’s PCB, so we 3D printed some fit-check parts on the F370 filament printer.

Scan data overlaid on a photo guides Autodesk Fusion 360 CAD design work for a first cut at fitting the inside of the new cover. (Image courtesy PADT Inc.)
Fit-check prototype parts, printed in ABS on a Stratasys F370 FDM printer. (Image courtesy PADT Inc.)

A stream-lined antenna cover design is underway; we’ll update with photos on our next post.

Old Handle, New Handle – Major Changes Needed

3D printed (ivory ABS) mock-up to check the fit of the S60 door handle when mounted to the PV544; the markings show the need to shorten both the length and depth of the original mechanism, which will be hidden by the new cover. (Image courtesy PADT Inc.)

The real work of the handle is done by the hidden part, which must perform mechanically while holding the key-fob electronics. Felicia Greene, another CAD team member, had already designed a shorter version of the door handle and printed it in ivory ASA (easier to mark up with a pen) to serve as a visual evaluation piece. This let Bogi get a first look at the challenge of mounting a modern, horizontal-pull handle on the PV544, compared to its original vertical-pull version.

The 3D printed test part did its job, guiding Bogi on how to rework/reuse the original S60 handles by drastically cutting them down to fit the door’s curvature. Then, to design a new 3D printed cosmetic cover, Anne fitted a spline-curve to new scan data on the reworked part and started another series of prototypes.

Autodesk Fusion 360 handle cover design with two profiles: the 3D printed first version (upper pink curve) did fit but proved there was extraneous space. Removing that space generated a sleeker style (lower pink curve). (Images courtesy PADT Inc.)
Revision number one: a shorter door-handle cover, with a test piece for checking the dimensions. (Image courtesy PADT Inc.)

The new handle cover had to be two inches shorter, yet wide enough to hold the PCB for the remote key-fob and still allow a hand to fit, too. Anne did a quick design/3D print of a one-inch interior section to confirm the snap-fit, then printed a prototype. It fit well, but with a 3D printer in the next room, of course the next step was a sleeker Rev Two (also coming in the next installment).

Bogi and Anne Pauley working with the handle components. (Image courtesy PADT Inc.)

Bogi Joins the CAD Team

The PADT/Stratasys connection began last year with Bogi’s determination to add digital design and production to her traditional custom build workflow. Now it’s no surprise that she’s added CAD work and 3D printing to her personal skillset. With a little guidance from Autodesk, which recently came to Phoenix and hosted a three-day Fusion 360 CAD software workshop, Bogi designed and printed an ABS mock-up of a suspension component that will later be machined in metal.

Left: original, too tall, traditional strut components. Right: new, shorter coilover suspension, with a 3D printed part that helped align the new components prior to a metal part being installed. (Images courtesy Girl Gang Garage.)

Having the part in place right now allowed her to move ahead with locking the replacement suspension system into its correct position, weeks before the metal part is delivered.

As Bogi said, “The cylinder is now in place, and it allowed us to fabricate the next component without waiting. Total game changer! I’m SO on board.”

Stay tuned for the next update – we’ll cover the camera housing, the finished antenna cover, progress on the huge dashboard remodel (making a 56” x 20” component fit a 45” x 6” space!) and more, as the Iron Maven moves closer to its SEMA 2022 trade show debut.

PADT Inc. is a globally recognized provider of Numerical Simulation, Product Development and 3D Printing/3D Scanning products and services. For more information on GOM 3D scanners and Stratasys and EOS printers and materials, contact us at info@padtinc.com.

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