General Motors has announced that it will start making 3D-printed components to hit the goal of expanding its current lineup to 20 new electric and fuel cell car models in the coming five years.
In partnership with design software company Autodesk, the Bay Area-Detroit collaboration is another sign that 3D printing is coming into its own on the manufacturing front.
Last year, Ford that it was the first automaker to test 3D printing capable of making any car component. While GM has used 3D printing for prototyping, it now claims it is the first automaker to use Autodesk's generative design software technology for parts that will be added to a cars within approximately a year, GM’s director of additive design and manufacturing Kevin Quinn .
As a proof of concept, the GM and Auodesk made a seat bracket. Not the sexiest component, but the bracket was 40 percent lighter and 20 percent stronger than the original part. The original was also eight components in one, while the 3D-printed bracket simply uses one comprehensive part.
In the long run, GM hopes that 3D printing will cut costs and reduce the amount of materials used. The company says it will first focus on high-end, motorsports applications. But within 5 years, after anticipated improvements in technology, the company hopes that it will be producing tens of thousands of parts.