Jun 26, 2018 | By Thomas

General Motors sees great value in 3D printing and is taking advantage. The company said most of GM’s factories have 3D printers, and 3D printing has the ability to save GM millions of dollars in annual production costs. Dan Grieshaber, GM’s director of global manufacturing integration, said use of the 3D printing technology has recently increased, leading GM to expand and better standardize operations.

“We’re quickly evolving, creating real value for the plant,” Grieshaber said last week during a tour of GM’s Lansing Delta Township assembly plant in mid-Michigan. “This will become, as we progress, our footprint. We’ll have this in every one of our sites.”

The company’s Delta Lansing plant Delta opened in 2006. 3D printing is part of what GM calls "Manufacturing 4.0," which also includes using drones to inspect assembly stations, and robots that are able to work with humans.

According to Zane Meike, who leads the plant’s 3D printing efforts, GM's 3D printer at Delta Lansing cost it approximately $35,000, but it has saved the company more than $300,000 over two years on tools and other accessories. As an example, the factory uses a 3D printed tool to align engine and transmission vehicle identification numbers. To buy this from a third party would cost the company upward of $3,000, but same piece cost less than $3 to be 3D printed at the plant.

GM said the 3D printer has a couple dozen uses in the plant, including making socket covers, hangers for parts and other ergonomic and safety tools. GM doesn’t think the 3D printer is limited to tools, though. The company also imagines 3D printing will help keep costs and weight down for future electric cars, as GM has partnered with 3D software expert Autodesk in order to create 3D printed parts for new cars. The manufacturer is looking to develop a new line of alternative energy vehicles in the upcoming years, and 3D printing will be used in order to fabricate more lightweight parts for the new cars, in a more cost-effective way.

According to Grieshaber, GM is working to standardize 3D printing and share best practices across all of the company's plants globally.

GM’s director of additive design and manufacturing, Kevin Quinn, has predicted that 3D printed parts will be appearing in the company’s high-end motorsports vehicles by sometime next year. Repeatability and robustness are currently the main issues that are holding the technology back from final-phase production applications on a larger scale. Within five years, GM is hoping to produce thousands or even tens of thousands of 3D printed parts for mass production, as the technology continues to improve. "That is our panacea," said Quinn. "That’s what we want to get to."



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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