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May 30, 2018,  by Allianz Partners Business Insights

General Motors lightweighting with 3D printing

General Motors has developed new production methods thanks to a multi-year partnership with a specialist high-tech firm. In harnessing 3D printing, artificial intelligence and the cloud, the US carmaker has already achieved results in terms of lightweighting its vehicles.

General Motors (GM) has teamed up with software company Autodesk in developing new technologies enabling the manufacture of lighter and more efficient spare parts. In making use of 3D printing, the cloud and AI algorithms, the carmaker is looking to create cars that weigh less and offer enhanced performance.


A “radically different” approach


“When we pair the design technology with manufacturing advancements such as 3D printing, our approach to vehicle development is completely transformed and is fundamentally different,” explained Ken Kelzer, GM Vice President Ken Kelzer, Global Vehicle Components and Subsystems, quoted by Auto Connected Car.

“We can co-create with the computer in ways we simply couldn’t have imagined before,” he added. In becoming the first US carmaker to work with Autodesk, GM is opening up new opportunities in terms of technology and engineering.


Increased solidity and fewer different parts


An enhanced version of a seat bracket has already been created using this new approach. It is 40 percent lighter and 20 percent stronger than the original part, and with the use of a 3D printer engineers have managed to consolidate eight different components into one single part. These innovations have been made possible by GM’s longstanding commitment to printing technologies.

The carmaking giant has been using such methods for more than 30 years and boasts one of the most comprehensive 3D printing capabilities in the world, with more than 50 rapid prototype machines at its disposal. Together they have produced more than 250,000 prototype parts over the last decade.

The result is lighter and lighter cars. Since 2016, GM has launched 14 new vehicle models with a total mass reduction of more than 5,000 lbs (over 2,200 kg), or more than 350 pounds per vehicle (approximately 158 kg).


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