GM to harness 3D printing for lighter and less costly parts

GM has announced that it is the latest in the automotive industry to begin looking to 3D printers to make lighter and cheaper parts for its cars. Lighter and less costly parts could be particularly important for the EVs that GM plans to roll out in the coming years. Less weight means longer driving distances and less cost means cheaper vehicles, both of which are good for buyers.

GM has plans to put 20 new EVs and fuel cell vehicles on the road by 2023. GM has announced this week that it is working with Autodesk Inc, a company famous for design software, to make lightweight 3D printed parts. GM is showing off a 3D printed stainless steel seat bracket developed with the Autodesk tech.

That tech uses cloud computing and AI-based algorithms to explore multiple versions of a part design. GM says that if this bracket was made using conventional means, it would require eight components and several suppliers. With the 3D printing system, the bracket has one part.

GM says that the 3D printed design is not only simpler but that it is 40% lighter and 20% stronger. The automaker has been using 3D printers for prototyping for years. Within about a year GM plans to use 3D printed parts in high-end motorsports applications. Within half a decade it hopes to be producing thousands or tens of thousands of parts using 3D printing tech.

GM says that the 3D printing will reduce tooling costs, reduce the amount of material used, and reduce the number of suppliers needed for one part. Those savings will also result in a logistics savings. Currently, 3D printing for automotive applications is working on mass production and addressing issues with "repeatability and robustness."

SOURCE: Reuters