Jun.7, 2013

The 2014 Chevrolet Malibu, which General Motors (GM) unveiled this month, is roomier, more efficient and an overall stronger choice for the midsize sedan segment, according to the company.

General Motors completely redesigned its 2013 model after some criticism about it and staggered sales. GM says its rushed redesign was made possible by one of the most cost-effective and time-saving methods in its high-tech tool box: rapid prototyping, also known as 3D printing.

Depending on its life cycle, automakers traditionally wait three to four years to update a vehicle. But with 3D printing, GM was able to make changes within 18 months.

The Selective laser sintering and stereolithography processes helped accelerate Malibu's development at a much lower cost than clay sculpting in the past.

GM says that 3D printing technology is particularly useful for updates to the new Malibu's floor console, which now features a pair of integrated smartphone holders for driver and passenger. The new console also weighs less, which helps contribute to the Malibu's improved fuel economy.

The redesigned floor console on the new 2014 Chevrolet Malibu, adding a longer armrest and dedicated storage for two cell phones. (Credit: General Motors)

In addition, the Malibu development team used rapid prototyping to:

  • Update the center stack trim and evaluate various surface treatments for the console and center stack
  • Create a prototype of Malibu's redesigned front fascia, enabling aerodynamic and climatic wind tunnel testing without expensive production parts.
  • Re-sculpt the front seat back panels – located between seat frame and upholstery – for improved rear seat access and passenger comfort. The 2014 model has 1.25 inches more knee room compared to its predecessor.

"When you need to get intricate, fully functional prototype parts quickly, nothing beats rapid prototyping," said Todd Pawlik, chief engineer, Chevrolet mid- and full-size cars. "Our ability to rapidly fabricate inexpensive prototype parts throughout a vehicle enables key components to get confirmed earlier so that we can go from computer models to production-caliber parts."


 


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