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Bringing a limited-edition 1919 Harley-Davidson back to life in the Netherlands

What’s delightful about this project isn’t how challenging it was, or how much expertise it required. On the contrary, it was a straightforward solution to a question that had been on the mind of one man for decades: How to get his vintage motorcycle ready to start and ride the streets with.

The conundrum was one day brought to Carl van de Rijzen of Visual First in the Netherlands, who has been working with Edwin Rappard of Artec Ambassador 4C Creative CAD CAM Consultants for over two years. Living on opposite ends of the country, the two have never met in person. “I send something to Edwin, he scans it, and sends it back!” said van de Rijzen. The same thing occurred in this case.

“A part from this 1919 Harley Davidson was broken,” he explained, “and the man who owned it had been working on the bike for about 50 years!” Given the vintage nature of the bike, two problems presented themselves: The replacement piece needed isn’t in circulation any longer, and even if sourcing from resellers was an option, it would come at a steep price and without any guarantee it would work adequately or fit perfectly. The part is not in use anymore but is essential for starting up the engine.

“He searched all over the world to find the replacement part,” van de Rijzen said, “and then, he came to me.”

The motorcycle’s distributor cap is essential for the ignition to start and the engine to run

While his company typically deals with reverse engineering, their solid connection with 4C gave this challenge an easy solution. The broken distributor cap was sent over one rainy Sunday, from southern Bergen op Zoom to northeastern Emmen, where 4C is based.

And even though the part was small, it was full of detail. “So, we had to use my all-time favorite: The Artec Space Spider!” said Rappard.

The Space Spider is an ideal choice for 3D scanning more complex sections of larger parts, or small objects with lots of intricate details. Capturing data that’s both high resolution and submillimeter accurate, the Space Spider is perfect for industrial and automotive use, providing scan data for everything from molding parts and machines, to vessel and automotive parts.

A comparison of the broken cap and the newly printed part

“He scanned it. He just fixed the problem, and that was really everything,” recalled van de Rijzen. “He sent it back. And, ta-da! It’s a 100-year-old bike, and now we have the part needed to make it work.”

While the black surface of the part might initially look tricky to scan, this too ended up being straightforward. “The material was dark, but it wasn’t shiny, so it was pretty easy to scan,” said Rappard.

While the broken part was incomplete, Artec Studio software made it easy to fix – with the mirror feature, which recreates parts exactly as they are, but mirrored. “The part was symmetrical, so I used a copy of the scan that I mirrored to “glue” into the missing space,” he explained. “This would lead to the end result: A brand new part!”

The newly printed and now-functional distributor cap of the Harley

Next, the processed data was 3D printed, after which the part was presented to a thoroughly delighted and proud owner of a Harley that is now ready to ride. “It’s amazing that this can happen, what technology we have these days!” the proud bike-owner said, “It’s magic!”

While he now enjoys a weekly ride on Sunday mornings, this retiree has plans to keep the bike in the excellent condition it is now in, for good. After he’s had his fix of riding the vintage bike, he plans to put it on display for all to enjoy, providing it with a forever home in one of the Dutch museums.

“This is a good example of how and where scanning is crucial,” said Rappard. “When there is no new material available anywhere, you have to use the broken parts to scan and manufacture new items.”

And thus a problem that spanned decades has finally met a solution – and provided a really fun challenge for all involved.

“Using new technology to fix old technology in all its glory! This was a real FUN thing to do,” said Rappard. "Working on such an aged Harley is a privilege, and using Artec for that is even more fun. How good can it get?”