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GM's new 3D printing shop will speed up production, cut costs

Jamie L. LaReau, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Automotive News

General Motors is increasing its use of 3D printing across more production vehicles with a new 3D printing shop at its Global Technical Center in Warren, Mich.

The Additive Industrialization Center (AIC), which GM is just opening, will use 3D printing to make more production and car parts that will save the automaker money and speed up vehicle development, the automaker said Monday.

Additive manufacturing is GM's term for 3D printing technology used to make parts. GM has been using 3D printing for 30 years largely for vehicle prototypes, but now it is using it on production vehicles and for tools in manufacturing plants.

“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,” said Audley Brown, GM director of Additive Design and Materials Engineering. “Compared to traditional processes, 3D printing can produce parts in a matter of days versus weeks or months at a significantly lower cost.”

Big investment

GM built the 15,000-square foot Additive Industrialization Center over the past year despite the pandemic, said Ron Daul, GM director of Additive Manufacturing and Polymer Centers.

 

The investment in the center is "significant," Daul said, but he declined to provide the actual figure. He said GM will earn a return on its investment with the time-savings in the vehicle development process.

"The various centers right now are an investment in General Motors. This is just one of many investments we've made in the last few years," Daul said. "I would expect us to make more investments in production over the next five years because we believe in this technology."

The facility includes 24 3D printers, which create polymer and metal product. Polymer is a synthetic material often used to describe plastics. GM has 75 total 3D-printers throughout its Tech Center in Warren.

GM used 3D printing earlier this year. It allowed GM to shift from making cars to making life-saving ventilators with Ventec Life Systems in a matter of days. GM has also used 3D printing in racing competitions. Now it will use the process to transform auto manufacturing.

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