Kindig-It Design Builds Cooler Cars Faster with Geomagic Design X and FARO Scanner

High-end restomod auto shop uses game-changing reverse engineering technology to create custom parts for cars featured on popular Motor Trends show.

Dave Kindig on his showroom floor

Dave Kindig's artwork

Metal fabricator Greg Hebard in a 1957 Corvette

Engineer Will Lockwood in front of a 1963 split-window Corvette

Kindig-It Design in Salt Lake City, Utah, is a high-end, custom automotive shop with a team of artists and fabricators who specialize in restomod—they’ve been restoring a broad range of vehicles and modifying them to be more modern since 1999. We’re talking super high-end work with very clean lines and an almost race-car level of sophistication. Tight-fitting form, functional, high-end cars. Everything they do is custom, bespoke.

Known for their TV show on the Discovery Channel’s Motor Trends network—which airs worldwide and gives a behind-the-scenes look at their process for building some super cool cars—their current lead time is about three to four years, so get in line.

Owner Dave Kindig has been designing cars by hand since he was a kid. “If they want to go over the top, I’m definitely their guy,” says Dave.

He adds, “And what’s great is that the guys back there, Greg and Will, take my hand-rendering and use Geomagic Design X to take all of the information that we’ve gathered off of the FARO ScanArm and put it into the computer, which is a game changer.” Now they can go from design concept all the way through CAD design and 3D printing. When Dave first started playing with hot rods in the 1990s, it was impossible to do the things they are doing now.

Greg Hebard has been a metal fabricator at Kindig-It since 2014, and is transitioning into more digital work including scanning, reverse engineering, 3D printing, and CNC programming. Greg says that one of the coolest parts about working at Kindig-It is talking to Dave, hearing his ideas, and turning those ideas into reality. “Dave is a perfectionist. All the tolerances for the door gaps, the trim, everything has to be really perfect,” says Hebard. “And when I use Geomagic Design X and the FARO ScanArm to do that, I can really nail it and make parts that are going to be perfect.”

Engineer Will Lockwood has been at Kindig-It since 2003 and started building customs when he was 16. Ultimately, Will’s job is to take Dave’s drawings off the wall and do whatever it takes to make them into a real car. To do that, Kindig-It increasingly uses reverse engineering for a variety of applications ranging from designing new trim, body, and engine components to recreating components you can no longer buy or find. Since they started using Geomagic Design X and the FARO Design ScanArm in 2018, Kindig-It has used reverse engineering for all kinds of projects, from headlights, taillights, and engine intakes, to trim pieces, scoops, and window openings. Most of the car parts they use reverse engineering for are 3D printed.

Getting More Creative and Building Cooler Parts and Cars

One of the things that sets Kindig-It Design apart is that they get to use their creativity to make cool cars and parts even cooler.

Basically, Dave only has to tell Greg and Will what he wants and they can start building cool stuff three-dimensionally, looking at it and knowing that it’s actually going to fit the vehicle. “It’s a no-brainer,” says Dave. “We’ve got creativity here, the right equipment to do it, and, of course, the right guys to do it.”

What both Greg and Will like about working at Kindig-It is the ability to be more creative and artistic. “I like designing things and I like working with metal. And this is the best platform to do that. We have more artistic freedom to work our craft and really go all out on projects,” says Greg.

Pushing boundaries, doing the most with the time that they have, and making nicer cars is what they’re ultimately after. “We want to exude our art on these cars. Geomagic Design X and the FARO ScanArm scanning capabilities have just exponentially increased that for us. And it’s a huge value, not only in dollars and cents, but in our enjoyment of the process,” adds Will.

Living in 3D Land: Free-Form Shapes and Next-Level Parts

Greg scanning the front of a 1971 Karmann Ghia

Greg designing a grill in Geomagic Design X

A lot of what Kindig-It is doing now they simply couldn’t do before. So, while they do use reverse engineering on some parts to save time, a lot of the parts they create are pushing the envelope. “We’re always trying to build cars better, and using the ScanArm and Geomagic allows us to do that,” Greg explains.

Cars have a lot of complex surfaces and the body lines all have slight curves with very little flat areas or straight edges. Therefore, it’s pretty hard to measure the side of a car. And designing something in CAD that works with the existing lines of a car is often challenging. Reverse engineering has changed the way Greg and Will design in that now they can work with pre-existing curves to make parts that complement the vehicle—and that actually fit.

Instead of having to stick to straight lines and build with existing materials, they can now make better parts because of the ability to design and build free-form shapes that are more intricate, have varying wall thicknesses or different kinds of radii, and fit better—and the end the product is exponentially nicer. “Something in design that I enjoy is curved surfaces. We’re able to create way crazier parts that are 10, 20 times cooler using the FARO ScanArm, Geomagic Design X, and the surfacing in that software than if we were to do it a traditional way,” adds Greg.

Kindig-It is using reverse engineering to make things that fit to existing body panels for parts with interesting surfaces that would be hard to mock up including pieces that have to fit on a surface (like emblems and trim pieces) as well as pieces that need to avoid surfaces or have space constraints (like an intake pipe or other engine component that needs to avoid a radiator fan, alternator, or other part; float; and be mounted a certain way).

“Being able to design in the computer, I can make something that looks a lot nicer and has flowing lines that you couldn’t accomplish with traditional manufacturing, cutting a piece of aluminum tubing. And it takes less time,” says Greg.

1953 Corvette Headlights
One of Greg’s projects is scanning a 1953 Chevrolet Corvette starting from the frame up and building all of the systems in the computer first.

For example, he took the fiberglass body, cut out the openings for the headlights, scanned it with the FARO ScanArm, redesigned the headlights in Geomagic Design X to follow the body line, and then 3D printed them.

1971 Karmann Ghia Grills and Taillights
Another project at Kindig-It Design is an air-cooled 1971 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia where the customer wanted to add air conditioning, which is not very common. To create a way to bring air into the front of the car and cover up the new holes, Greg scanned the entire front of the car with the ScanArm, designed some really cool grills with Geomagic Design X (that would have been really hard to draw in CAD because of the curve), 3D printed sand-casting patterns, had them cast out of aluminum, and then sent them to chrome.

“The trim for the Karmann Ghia is a prime example of pretty crazy shapes, and they all fit perfectly on the curved surfaces of the car. There’s not a lot of straight lines on it. I think it looks great,” says Greg.

In addition, the OEM taillights on the Ghia were pretty bulky and the customer wanted something sleeker. So, Greg scanned the back of the car using the ScanArm, designed a sleek, simple taillight that goes off the body lines of the car in Geomagic Design X, and then had it machined in acrylic.
You can actually see the process for the new front facial and taillights on season six of the show. Not only do they fit the car perfectly, they look vintage too.

Using X-Ray Vision: Better-Fitting, Higher-Quality Parts in One Try

Fitting a final chrome grill on a 1971 Karmann Ghia

Building custom vehicles is a bit tricky because everything’s one-off. At Kindig-It Design, there’s no time to do something twice. Every project is an experiment that has to be right the first time. So, every prototype they make is the final part—basically, they’re a prototype shop without revisions.

Designing and fabricating a part for a finished car by hand that fits and doesn’t scratch the paint is not only a time-consuming chore of trial and error, it’s also stressful. Because the fit and finish on the cars needs to be perfect, using the FARO Design ScanArm and Geomagic Design X to design trim pieces takes the guess work out and allows Greg and Will to create parts that fit perfectly to a painted surface on the first try without too much effort, which saves a lot of time.

Will notes, “Getting something to fit right the first time is absolutely what I’m after. And the ScanArm, the Geomagic Design X software make it foolproof. It’s paid off every time we’ve used it.”

Greg adds that when he’s scanned something, he can trust that the part he’s building can fit within a couple of thousands of an inch. You can’t even fit a piece of paper between the car and the trim. It’s a pretty perfect finish right out of the gate.

For example, in the past, they dealt with under-hood components that didn’t fit because, once the hood is shut, you can’t see what the clearances are. Now they can scan the engine bay and hood with the ScanArm; assemble them together and close the hood virtually in Geomagic Design X; and then see what space constraints they actually have to deal with to make sure that there’s clearance under the hood. “It’s our X-ray vision,” Will concludes.

1966 Chevy Nova LT4 Supercharged Engine Intake

Greg built an intake for a 1966 Chevrolet Nova with an LT4 supercharged engine, which was tricky because there was limited space. He scanned the engine bay and where the tire was so he knew that the air filter wasn’t going to touch the tire when it was moving. “Everything clears by a little more than an eighth of an inch. It is a dream to be able to work in the computer and make sure that I’m going to clear all those things. And when I bolted this thing in, everything worked out perfectly.”

1967 Coronet Taillight, Scoop, and Window Opening

Will reverse engineered several parts for a 1967 Dodge Coronet. He scanned the whole rear of the car and then custom fit the bezels to the body before they were machined. And it fit. If he didn’t have the ScanArm and Geomagic Design X, he would have had to fabricate the parts on a CNC machine and then hand fit all of it together, chopping up the body or their brand new, expensive CNC parts.

He also reworked all the metal on the hood, scanned the opening, and then designed and 3D printed a cool scoop, which was one of Dave’s dreams.

In addition, they had chopped the car, so he had to have custom glass made for the windows. The window openings were pretty tricky. After a failed attempt to do it non-digitally, Will scanned the window opening to get the dimensions, provided that information to the glass company, and he got back glass that fit perfectly.

Check out this blue 1967 Dodge Coronet in season five of the show.

Saving Time and Reducing Labor Costs

Since they started using the FARO Design ScanArm and Geomagic Design X at Kindig-It Design, they’ve saved days’, weeks’, and sometimes months’ worth of work, improved delivery time, and reduced labor costs by taking the guesswork out and eliminating trial and error. “We’re creating stuff in a few days that would have taken us months and months to do before. Having all of the cool tools has made it so much quicker,” confirms Dave.

According to Will, some of the biggest challenges they face in the custom auto business are timeline and budget. Geomagic Design X and the FARO ScanArm have cut the time by at least half, depending on the project—freeing up time to innovate.

“In some cases, it’s saving days’ worth of work. It would take maybe two weeks to hand-make a piece of trim. But if I can scan it and get it in the computer, it might take me a day and a half. And it’s just invaluable,” adds Greg.

For example, the intake pipe that Greg built for the 1966 Chevy Nova would have taken him about a week to manufacture in a traditional way by hand, and it would have been a real chore. But, by scanning it and reverse engineering the engine bay in Geomagic Design X, he was able to do it in about a day. And he built the trim for the 1971 Karmann Ghia in about two weeks using reverse engineering and 3D printing, which would have taken him months to do by hand.

Streamlining the Design Process

Since they started using reverse engineering, Greg and Will have been able to streamline design. “What I’ve really found is that every time I touch it, every time I use the FARO ScanArm and the Geomagic Design X software, it’s a game changer for me. And, exponentially, I’m just so much happier and so much more productive,” says Will. “It’s fun to watch. And then it’s fun to look back and realize the difference that the software and the scanning ability has made to our process and, overall, our art. I’m still kind of blown away by the whole deal.

Scanning with Confidence: FARO Design ScanArm

According to Dave, the ability to scan what they’re working on to finish it out and build their trim pieces is priceless. “We go to town with our FARO 3D scanner.”Greg says that he was able to start using the ScanArm in a couple of hours. And with its high-resolution scan data, he can get a lot of detail and CAD files that they can trust. “It’s nice that I can scan a Super Charger and know exactly where all the bolt holes are. Whereas, with other scanners, you just don’t get the resolution. So, I can be a lot more confident in the scan data.”

He adds that a lot of the fans of the show might just think it’s magic how they’re using the scanner to make parts. “When they see the scanning on the show, they think it’s pretty cool.”

Taking Design to the Next Level: Geomagic Design X

Another way Greg and Will have been able to streamline design is by forgoing other CAD software and modeling everything in Geomagic Design X. “I thought I’d be importing things into SOLIDWORKS, but I really haven’t. I just go with Geomagic Design X the entire time,” notes Greg.

Both Greg and Will found Geomagic Design X easy to use right out of the gate. “I had a little bit of help from some of the application engineers at 3D Systems. I’d say probably 12 hours total and I was using Geomagic like I had been using it for years,” recalls Greg. And he really liked that 3D Systems used actual projects from Kindig-It Design during the training, so it was tailored to their workflow.

One of Greg’s favorite tools in Geomagic Design X is mesh sketch, which enables him to pull a plane in the middle of a sketch so that he knows exactly where everything is, all the edges. Will really likes the region grouping tool that recognizes shapes. “I remember that was kind of the game changer for me and when I started really pushing that we needed to get this software in house.” They both also really like the auto surfacing tool that allows them to make sure their designs will fit perfectly against the curve of a car’s body panels.

“I would absolutely recommend a FARO ScanArm and Geomagic Design X to any shop. I’d never want to be without it,” says Will. Dave adds, “I feel kind of bad for some of the competition because they don’t have the same equipment. Maybe they should because it’s a game changer for us.”

Looking Towards the Future

Dave Kindig in his 1957 Corvette

“Ultimately, if Dave would let me, I would scan these entire cars. They would absolutely be entirely virtually built in the computer before we even touched them. One day, that will happen,” predicts Will.

In the meantime, they’re getting into inspecting their finished, reverse-engineered parts with Geomagic Control X metrology software. For example, Will did a post inspection on the grills they got back from chrome for the 1971 Karmann Ghia so they could compare their CAD drawings, to the castings, to the chrome and see how accurate their process was, which will help them in the future to improve their design methods and compensate for casting imperfections. Turns out, they were pretty spot on. And, of course, they’ll continue to use the FARO Design ScanArm and Geomagic Design X to keep building cool cars.

“There is nothing that we can’t build at this point. If we can dream it, we can build it. Quite literally, within a couple of hours, I have it ready to go,” concludes Dave.