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Automotive product development at Z1 Motorsports begins with Artec 3D laser scanning

By <a href="" target="_self">Karen Majerly</a>

By Karen Majerly

Posted on May 26, 2023

Built on a foundation of Nissan Z sportscar enthusiasts and a commitment to excellence in engineering, Z1 Motorsports offers parts, service, performance upgrades, and expert advice. Located about 30 minutes west of Atlanta, Georgia, its team serves customers both on site and around the globe.

Z1 designs and produces performance parts for the Nissan 300ZX, 350Z, and 370Z, and the Infiniti G35 and G37. Examples include air intake and exhaust systems, cooling components, brake packages, and aesthetic add-ons.

Z1 motorsports

Director of Product Development Joel McKay said their products meet a high threshold for quality and performance.

“Our product development team conceives and designs with the customer in mind from the inception of a project. From 3D scanning and modelling, right through to track testing, our engineering process ensures we can deliver quickly and ensure quality.”

Reverse engineering for fit and function

3D scanning is the first step in the development of almost every Z1 product. Joel explained that his team doesn’t receive CAD data directly from Nissan-Infiniti. To understand how their add-on products will fit, Z1 designers use handheld Artec 3D laser scanners and related software to reverse engineer the packaging envelope of the vehicles.

“Our designers grab the Artec scanner, quickly scan an area on or inside the vehicle to get the data they need, and bring that data into SOLIDWORKS. If they need a bit more data, it’s easy to go scan some more. It’s an efficient process, and allows us to design more accurately, which lessens the number of revisions and gets us to market faster.”

Joel shared the example of designing an exhaust system.

“We typically remove the standard exhaust system, then scan the entire underside of the car. We can then understand where the exhaust system mounts, where the hangers are, where the tips need to be, and how much space we need. This allows us to properly design and install components like mufflers and resonators.”

Choosing the right tool for the job

Kyle McGlone is a Z1 Motorsports Design Engineer. He explained that his team’s first experience with an Artec scanner was the Space Spider. With 3D point accuracy of .05 mm and 3D resolution of .1 mm, the Space Spider allows designers to make accurate models of small objects or sections of larger objects in fine detail.

As Kyle said, “the Space Spider will scan the dust in the air,” but isn’t as well suited to scanning an entire car. Next they tried the Artec Leo, more appropriate for scanning larger objects and scenes.

The wireless Leo is the first 3D scanner to offer onboard automatic processing, which means scanning is as easy as taking a video. A 3D replica gets built in real time on Leo’s touch screen. With a large field of view, Leo can scan and process large objects and the 80 frames per second 3D reconstruction rate ensures quick data collection.

Artec leo z1 motorsports

Kyle explained, “Using the Leo is fast. Really fast. I can get a useful scan of an engine bay in a couple of minutes and scan an entire engine in 10 minutes. I can come back with the Space Spider to scan the areas where we need to capture finer detail, then patch the scans together.”

From hours to minutes

Joel said that after borrowing the Leo and trying it out, it was clear that it was the product they needed. They now use it for 95% of their scanning.

“Using the tools we used in the past, scans that now take a few minutes would have taken an hour plus. Using the Artec scanners is obviously more efficient and less burdensome, so our designers are quite willing to use them. It has helped tremendously.”

Joel has used several types of scanners before, including those with articulating arms that stay affixed to a base, and handheld options that required stick-on dots to be placed all over the subject of the scan. Units on platforms were not mobile enough for scanning vehicle parts, and placing hundreds of dots was so time-consuming and laborious that designers didn’t want to do it. They would try to design without the benefit of scanned data, which led to more revisions or an end product that didn’t fit well.

“We can move the Artec scanners easily from the engineering area to the shop or even to the warehouse. And the Leo is very good at using the existing geometry from the vehicle to triangulate itself. Occasionally we use a few pieces of tape if it’s a flat surface. It’s so much easier than equipment I’ve used in the past. No one hesitates to use the scanner anymore.”

Ensuring quality

Z1 also uses 3D laser scanning for quality inspection. Joel said their parts can be very complex and have somewhat organic shapes.

“We may define a profile tolerance for the part that’s impossible to measure with a set of calipers. Instead, we scan the part and overlay that scan with our CAD model, and the software will tell us how close that part is to the nominal shape.”

Z1 Motorsports Supported by TriMech

Z1 Motorsports relies on TriMech to supply and support its Artec scanners. Joel said the TriMech team has been helpful and easy to work with, and laid out an easy-to-follow path.

And Kyle reported relying on TriMech tech support a handful of times.

“I usually get a response basically immediately. Working with TriMech has been great. Whenever we need scanner assistance, or engineering software, we go to TriMech.”

Z1 Motorsports is online at

<h4>Written by <a href="" target="_self">Karen Majerly</a></h4>

Written by Karen Majerly

Karen Majerly is a communications specialist who helps remarkable people tell rich stories. She has been working with the TriMech Group of companies since 2013.