APPLICATION AUTOMOTIVE

General Motors Opens New Additive Industrialization Center Dedicated to 3D Printing

Additive Industrialization Center
Above: GM Manufacturing Engineer Benjamin LeBlanc inspects a 3D printer at the GM AIC/Image Credit: Steve Fecht for General Motors

General Motors, one of the world’s leading car manufacturer, announced the opening of the 15,000-square-foot Additive Industrialization Center (AIC), a facility exclusively dedicated to productionizing 3D printing technology in the automotive industry in Detroit, Michigan, USA. The AIC is the capstone of GM’s expertise and increased investment in 3D printing over the last several years.

Speaking at the opening, Audley Brown, GM director of Additive Design and Materials Engineering said, “The core component of GM’s transformation is becoming a more agile, innovative company, and 3D printing will play a critical role in that mission. Compared to traditional processes, 3D printing can produce parts in a matter of days versus weeks or months at a significantly lower cost.”

ADDITIVE INDUSTRIALIZATION CENTER (AIC)

Additive Industrialization Center
Above: General Motors Metal Model Makers Kenneth Neal and Joseph Misiak check on 3D printers in the GM AIC/Image Credit: Steve Fecht for General Motors

The comprehensive facility includes 24 3D printers, which create polymer and metal solutions. GM’s additive design and manufacturing team leverages a number of processes at the Additive Industrialization Center, including selective laser sintering, selective laser melting, Multi-Jet Fusion and fused deposition modelling.

The AIC is intended to validate additive technologies and applications, with frequent pivots to evolving additive machinery and equipment. GM Ventures and GM R&D are collaborative partners with the AIC, supporting a holistic, integrated, enterprise approach to adopting accelerated product development and tooling.

According to Ron Daul, GM director of Additive Manufacturing and Polymer Centers, “GM is increasingly applying the benefits of 3D printing, from prototype development to manufacturing tooling and production vehicles. With the opening of the AIC, we’ll continue to accelerate adoption of this technology across the organization.”

FUNCTIONAL PROTOTYPES

Above: 3D printed hand apply tools destined for General Motors Arlington Assembly/Image Credit: Steve Fecht for General Motors

GM has a history of using 3D printed rapid prototypes to check form and fit. Today, many of the parts the Additive Industrialization Center produces are functional prototypes used on pre-production vehicles in various testing environments.

Early integration vehicles and test benches are often equipped with 3D printed parts that can undergo the same testing as a conventionally tooled part.

Brown mentioned, “Many recent product programs have benefitted from 3D printed prototype parts in one way or another. Not only can these parts save time and money, but the team also uses 3D printed applications during product development to overcome unexpected challenges in real time.”

MANUFACTURING AND TOOLING

Additive Industrialization Center
Above: General Motors Metal Model Maker Jason Blackburn wears hazardous material personal protective equipment/Image Credit: Steve Fecht for General Motors

GM is also producing a significant number of 3D printed tools used for assembling vehicles. Manufacturing tooling comes in many shapes and forms, such as hand-apply tools, automation components and rapid-response solutions for production site launches.

For the launch of GM’s all-new full-size SUVs, the team 3D printed nearly 100 hand tools for the body shop at Arlington Assembly. Typically, these tools would be made of aluminium, weighing anywhere from 10 to 40 pounds. The new designs, constructed with a nylon carbon fiber composite, weigh as little as three pounds and virtually eliminated the lead time for ordering part changes.

Daul added, “3D printing the body shop tools at Arlington saved more than two months in tooling construction. This is at the critical time when we are changing the plant over to launch the new models. Ultimately, 3D printing helps accelerate new vehicle launches like our full-size SUVs.”

PRODUCTION

Above: GM Additive Manufacturing Engineer Pedro Ledezma working with 3D printers/Image Credit: Steve Fecht for General Motors

Cadillac recently announced the CT4-V Blackwing and CT5-V Blackwing will be the first GM production vehicles to have 3D printed parts, including an emblem on the manual shifter knob, an electrical harness bracket and two HVAC ducts.

Brown added, “The parts printed for the Cadillac V-Series models exemplify how we can use additive applications in the right place on the right program. And, this is just the beginning. Ultimately, we see the potential for 3D printed parts to be used in a wide variety of production applications – from greater personalization options for new-vehicle buyers, to unique accessories and reproductions of classic car parts.”

With the Additive Industrialization Center, GM is making its 3D printing capability more sophisticated and responsive across its global manufacturing facilities.


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