General Motors says it is using new, advanced software design technology to introduce the next generation of vehicle lightweighting.
The U.S. manufacturer claims the technology is key to developing efficient and lighter alternative propulsion and zero emission vehicles.
GM has recently become the first automaker in North America to use new generative design software technology from Bay Area-based software company Autodesk. It uses cloud computing and AI-based algorithms to rapidly explore multiple permutations of a part design, generating hundreds of often very organic-looking geometric design options based on goals and parameters set by the user, such as weight, strength, material choice, fabrication method, and more. The user then determines the best part design option.
“This disruptive technology provides tremendous advancements in how we can design and develop components for our future vehicles to make them lighter and more efficient,” says GM’s vice president of global vehicle components and subsystems, Ken Kelzer. “When we pair the design technology with manufacturing advancements such as 3D printing, our approach to vehicle development is completely transformed and is fundamentally different to co-create with the computer in ways we simply couldn’t have imagined before.”
The new design technology is claimed to provide significantly more vehicle mass reduction and parts consolidation opportunities that cannot be achieved through traditional design optimisation methods.
GM and Autodesk engineers have applied this new technology to produce a proof-of-concept part – a seat bracket – that is 40 per cent lighter and 20 per cent stronger than the original part. It also consolidates eight different components into one 3D-printed part.
“Generative design is the future of manufacturing, and GM is a pioneer in using it to lightweight their future vehicles,” says Scott Reese, Autodesk’s senior vice president for manufacturing and construction products. “Generative technologies fundamentally change how engineering work is done because the manufacturing process is built into design options from the start. GM engineers will be able to explore hundreds of ready-to-be-manufactured, high-performance design options faster than they were able to validate a single design the old way.”
GM has been using additive manufacturing technology for more than 30 years. The company possessed the first and has some of the auto industry’s most comprehensive 3D printing capabilities in the world with more than 50 rapid prototype machines that have produced more than 250,000 prototype parts over the last decade.
Since 2016, GM has launched 14 new vehicle models with a total mass reduction of more than 2268 kg, or more than 159 kg per vehicle. Most of the weight reduction are a result of material and technology advancements. Of those models, more than half of the vehicles shed 136 kg or more including the all-new 2019 Chevrolet Silverado, which reduced mass by up to 204 kg.
“Eliminating mass in parts where material is not required for performance combined with parts consolidation yields benefits for vehicle owners including the potential for more interior space and vehicle content, increased range, and enhanced vehicle performance,” say GM designers. “It also paves the way for new features for customers and provides vehicle designers a canvas on which to explore designs and shapes not seen today.”