Girl Gang Garage: Custom Car Rebuilds + 3D Scanning + 3D Printing

What do you get when you cross a 1961 Volvo PV544 retro-look car with a sleek 2019 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered sedan – and why would you ever do that?

You get a custom head-turner hybrid vehicle designed to get people talking, especially about women in automotive trades. That’s because this blended vehicle project is being disassembled, redesigned and rebuilt by an all-female team based at Girl Gang Garage in Phoenix Arizona.

Bogi Lateiner and Shawnda Williams, co-owners of Girl Gang Garage, stand next to the stripped-down body of a 1961 Volvo PV544 that will soon be retrofitted on the chassis of a brand-new 2019 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered sedan. The rebuild project provides a rare hands-on learning opportunity for women of all ages and skill levels, from around the U.S., to come and learn (or improve) skills in welding, cutting, transmission work, body repair/painting, electronics, upholstery and more. (Image courtesy Girl Gang Garage.)

Girl Gang Garage founder and co-owner, Bogi Lateiner, TV host of Motortrend’s All Girls Garage and Garage Squad shows, is well on the way to transforming these vehicles as the third major public project she has undertaken. Along with co-owner Shawnda Williams, Lateiner offers women of all ages, experiences and skill levels the chance to lend a hand, learn a tool, and possibly discover a new career-path in the automotive trades.

The front showroom of Girl Gang Garage (Phoenix AZ). At the left is the group’s second all-female build dubbed High Yellow 56, displayed at the 2019 SEMA Show. Partially hidden in the center is the first (2017) Girl Gang build, the Chevy Montage with its BMW engine, and at the right is the early-stage PV544 rebuild slated for showing at the 2021 SEMA Show. (Image courtesy PADT Inc.)

Lateiner and Williams apply well-honed old-school skills but have been increasingly interested in the possibilities offered by today’s digital workflow. That’s why early in 2021, after conversations with the fellow re-build team at Kindig-It Custom Car Fabrication, Lateiner reached out to Stratasys to see how they might work together to incorporate 3D printing in the PV544 project.

At Stratasys, Pat Carey, Senior Vice President Americas Products & Solutions, and Allen Kreemer, Senior Strategic Applications Engineer, were immediately onboard with the chance to help Girl Gang Garage move into the digital world while widening their circle of women with automotive skills and interests. They loaned the team an F370 FDM 3D printer and accompanying support-removal SCA tank and offered to supply filament material for a two year try-whatever-you-want time period. Moreover, they pulled together a volunteer team of women across the country who could support the effort on multiple fronts.

Every 3D printer looks better with a cool scooter in front: the Stratasys F370 FDM printer, installed at Girl Gang Garage. (Image courtesy PADT Inc.)

A Virtual Team and a Digital Workflow

The team includes engineers whose day-time jobs have them working at Stratasys, Link3D, Autodesk, Xerox, Collins Aerospace and Ford Motor Company or as independent consultants. Printer installation and local support is handled by PADT Inc, a Stratasys reseller and 3D printing/design/simulation company located just 16 miles away from Girl Gang Garage. In addition, members of Women in 3D Printing offered to coordinate many of the publicity efforts and even sponsor a related design competition targeted at young women in high schools and colleges who are learning CAD skills. (More on that to come.)

During the first few Zoom meetings that introduced Lateiner and Williams to the technical capabilities of the different team members and the printer, the basic rebuild plan was presented: strip the PV544 down to bare metal (removing every mechanical and electrical component), disassemble the S60 down to the chassis, engine, drive-train and hybrid motor system, and figure out how to make the two sections fit!

Traditionally, that workflow depended strictly on the classic tools of the trade, from cutting wheels and a Sawzall to hand-grinders and pneumatic drills. Those components are still coming into play on the current project under the skilled eye of the Girl Gang Garage leaders, but now complementary digital processes are being added.

It Starts with Scanning

Using the GOM Tscan Hawk hand-held 3D laser-line scanner to digitally capture reference points, surface curvature and details on the PV544 body. (Image courtesy PADT Inc.)

PADT recently became a reseller of GOM 3D scanning hardware and software tools, and the timing was perfect to bring the new handheld Tscan Hawk system on-site. Operating with both red-line and blue-line (different wavelength) laser scanners plus stereo cameras, the Tscan Hawk captures millions of spatial 3D-point-coordinates (termed clouds of data) which are converted into a standard STL mesh file format for several end-purposes. The red lasers generate measurements across medium to large surfaces while the blue-wavelength sensors capture fine detail, with accuracy down to 20 microns.

GOM Inspect software records reference points, captures the individual coordinate data and allows interrogation of that data to provide dimensions, such as the distance between the engine frame mounts or the diameter of the hole into which the headlamp fits.

 (Images courtesy PADT Inc.)

These three images show a) the reference-point data that appears on the laptop screen as the shape of the PV544 vehicle’s underside is captured, b) the completed scan showing the 3D details of the as-built sheet metal and c) a report page from GOM Inspect software with dozens of dimensions extracted from the scan, such as the length of the trunk opening and the width of the opening available for the engine mount. The scan data, if exported as an STL file, could be sent directly to a 3D printer – though for this project the team is not printing the full body. Instead, subsets of the scan are being used for reverse engineering, where the data works as the basis for creative design elements to be printed and perhaps painted or plated.

To do so, the scanned data is be brought into a surfacing package such as Geomagic Design X or Innovmetric PolyWorks. Those software tools let users convert the STL mesh into an IGES surface, which can then be brought into a CAD package as the basis for a new solid model.

Not for the real build but as a fun example, here is a possible headlight-rim with the letters “Girl Gang Garage” cut out as a circular repeat pattern, that could be backlit with LEDS to customize the build. The design and dimensions are based on the maximum inscribed circle fitted by the GOM Inspect software inside the given opening. (In future blog posts, we’ll show examples of the CAD team’s actual 3D printing results.)

Scanning has many other purposes and capabilities. If CAD data were available for the actual vehicle, those files could be imported, overlaid on the captured data, and compared, alerting the user to deviations between intended and actual dimensions – a very common use of GOM Inspect software.

Next Steps

Every Thursday through Sunday, volunteer women come to Girl Gang Garage and learn to use cutting tools, welders, sanders and more, making daily progress toward the completed hybrid PV544. (All women are invited to come help and learn, at no cost – just sign up to get involved and get yourself to Phoenix.) Here are a few glimpses into the work as of early April – much more has been done but stay tuned for the next blog post as we show off elements of the S60 sedan, scan data being used for reference, and details of the design contest.

Views of the PV544 Volvo with work underway on a rear fender (also shown as scan data from the Tscan Hawk, with Bogi Lateiner in her Girl Gang Garage location). (Images courtesy PADT Inc.)

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