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3D Printing, Electric Vehicles Converge at GM

In an effort to bolster its electric vehicle and alternative fuel initiatives, General Motors Co. has teamed up with Autodesk to create lightweight 3D-printed parts.

GM and Autodesk used generative design to create the new seat bracket. Image: Autodesk

GM displayed a 3D-printed stainless steel seat bracket the two companies had developed. With traditional manufacturing, the bracket required eight components from several different suppliers. Now the bracket can be produced as one piece that is 40% lighter and 20% stronger than its predecessor.

GM leveraged Autodesk’s cloud computing and AI-based algorithms, using a generative design approach to create the part. The resultant part has a much more organic and streamlined look than the original bracket.

“This disruptive technology provides tremendous advancements in how we can design and develop components for our future vehicles to make them lighter and more efficient, said GM vice president Ken Kelzer, global vehicle components and subsystems. “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 to co-create with the computer in ways we simply couldn’t have imagined before.”

The 3D printing effort will support GM’s plans to add 20 new electric battery and fuel cell vehicles to its product line over the next six years. Lighter-weight parts can help improve fuel efficiency and, more importantly, extend the range of EV and fuel cell vehicles – a key stumbling block to creating a mass market for these types of cars.

According to an interview in Reuters, GM’s director of additive design and manufacturing, Kevin Quinn, says that the company hopes to have similar printed parts in its high-end motorsports applications within the year. The technology can also reduce tooling costs, reduce material, and help consolidate suppliers and logistics resources.

You can read more about the design process and see additional variations on the bracket design in this Autodesk blog.

Source: GM

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