Lead Forensics

Classic Vehicle Restoration & 3D Scanning

Nov 10, 2020 | 3D Scanning, Automotive, Classic Cars, Museums & Collections, Reverse Engineering

Did you know that there are over 1 million historic vehicles registered in the UK? Quite often these vehicles need specialist tools and applications applying to the restoration process.

Here at PES Scanning we utilise 3D scanning technology to reverse engineer these vehicles to produced replacement body panels or mechanical parts to support the historic vehicle restoration community.

Today there are a growing number of classic vehicles in the world from cars and aeroplanes to boats and steam trains. The classic & historic vehicle industry alone is said to be worth a staggering £2 billion to the UK economy employing around 35,000 people.


Stats: Federation of Historic Vehicle Clubs

Due to the enthusiastic support of restorers, historians and owners alike the classic vehicle restoration scene has grown massively over the last 25 years, but it is not an easy business to be involved in.

Quite often the vehicle in question is either one of a very limited number of surviving examples, a one off-prototype or a model which may not have been in production for a number of years, and because of this it is likely that there are no replacement off the shelf body panels or mechanical parts.

In the past restoration companies have had to create a physical mock-up of the vehicle but this is often very time-consuming and very frustrating for the engineers involved.

With advancements in laser and camera based scanning technologies vehicle restoration companies can now use the services of 3D scanning companies to capture 3D data of either a replica or original vehicle, or even a scale model, and subsequently reverse engineer the 3D data or store the data for future use.

What does 3D Scanning mean?

Typically, we are referring to the process of analysing real-world objects or environments to collect data on their shape and possibly appearance (e.g. colour, texture). The data collected, commonly known as “point clouds” can then be used to construct precise digital 3D models.

Traditionally Coordinate Measurement Machines (CMM) and other contact measurement system are often regarded as the benchmark or gold standard when we talk about 3D data collection but over the last decade non-contact 3D scanning systems such as laser scanners, structured light scanners and even photogrammetry and CT scanners have closed the technology gap between them and contact systems to almost nothing.

Non-contact 3D scanning offers many advantages over tradition contact systems due to their simple and rapid collection of large datasets and ability to measure complex freeform surfaces. It is because of this that often for classic vehicle restoration the system of choice is a 3D laser scanner.

Non-contact 3D scanning equipment

Typically, laser scanners are handheld systems, which means they are easy to use and offer a point and scan type of approach. Creoform, Faro, Hexagon and Zeiss are few of the more commonly known industrial suppliers in the field of laser scanning, although many other companies such as Peel3D, Shinning 3D and Artec are now offering reasonably priced scanning solutions. In fact, if so, inclined you could use even use a Microsoft Kinect sensor to gather 3D data, albeit, not to the quality to reverse engineer a classic vehicle!

Using 3D Scanning for Classic Vehicle Restoration

A typical historic vehicle 3D scanning process would be to: –

  • Firstly, evaluate the requirements of the customer and select the most suitable piece of 3D scanning equipment.
  • Define the measurement strategy that you would like to apply, either full point cloud data capture as a watertight model or key feature extraction such as mounting points or relationships
  • Set up a clean and stable working area, vibration and temperature fluctuations are not the friend of laser scanning and you need to consider extra space around the object to carry out the scanning process.
  • Set up the scanner and start the data capture process, of course there may be a warmup or calibration routine that needs to be applied to ensure the data capture is of a high quality.
  • Then dependant on the size of the object to be scanned and the chosen scanning system the scan is either be done from one position or “station” or may need multiple stations to generate discrete 3D point clouds that are later merged together to create the final overall point cloud.

3D scanning a car body

  • Once the point cloud is obtained and aligned it can be converted into a polygonised mesh and it is at this point that we get our first look at the digital model which can be used for archiving purposes or given to a manufacturer to start the process of reverse engineering.

Polygonised mesh from 3D scan of classic car

3D scanning for classic and historic vehicles is a rapidly growing industry and can offer the customer a great deal of time saving and can be pain free way of bringing the vehicle back to the original condition.

In addition the cost benefit of owning a 3D model of the vehicle is great as should any parts need replacing in the future you already have a detail 3D model of the vehicle to interrogate and extract the relevant data from.

Here at PES Scanning we have scanned a variety of classic vehicles of all shapes and sizes from many different sectors. See some of our latest and past projects.

About The Blog

The PES Scanning blog provides information and news on the scanning and engineering services we offer. The blog also includes views from our team and information about projects we’ve been working on.