General Motors Co collaborating with Autodesk to design 3D printed auto parts

3D printed parts are likely to be a game changer for the auto industry. In GM’s case, the adoption of AI to make parts has resulted in creating a part which is 40% lighter and 20% stronger and has significant drop in the number of components required for the part to function. Its a giant boost across the value chain.

On Thursday, General Motors Co stated it was working with Autodesk Inc, a software company which specializes in making design software, to manufacture lightweight 3D-printed parts which could potentially enable it to add alternative-fuel vehicles to its product line.

In 2017, in a bold promise, General Motors ‘s CEO Mary Barra, had told investors it would add twenty new models of electric battery and fuel cell vehicles to its global lineup by 2023 and that it would make money selling electric cars by 2021.

The ability to print lightweight 3D printed parts could be a game changer for the electric vehicle industry.

With consumer concerns hovering around the range of EVs, making them lighter could significantly improve their fuel efficiency and boost their milerange.

Earlier this week, GM showed off a 3D-printed stainless steel seat bracket developed with Autodesk technology which uses cloud computing and artificial intelligence-based algorithms to rapidly explore multiple permutations of a part design.

Using conventional technology the part would have required eight components and several suppliers, however, with this new AI approach, seat bracket consists of just one part which is 40% lighter and 20% stronger.

GM’s experience in 3D printers goes back to several years especially for prototyping.

According to Kevin Quinn, GM’s director of additive design and manufacturing, within a year or less, the automaker expects these new 3D-printed parts to form be part in high-end, motor sports applications.

Within 5 years, GM hopes improvement in the technology would allow it to mass produce these components in tens of thousands.

“That is our panacea,” said Quinn. “That’s what we want to get to.”

In the long run, 3D printed parts are expected to significantly reduce tooling costs and significantly reduce the amount of materials used as well as the number of suppliers required for a part, which will again significantly reduce the cost of its logistics.

As per Bob Yancey, Autodesk’s director of manufacturing, the 3D-printing based manufacturing industry is working toward mass production and trying to address issues with “repeatability and robustness”.

With GM getting into the game it “will put tremendous pressure” to make that happen, said Yancey.

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