GM teams with Autodesk to 3D print cheaper and lighter parts for alternative fuel vehicles

May 3, 2018 | By David

Automotive giant General Motors 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. The company’s eventual goal is to have 20 new alternative energy cars added to its product lineup by 2023.

With the use of fossil fuels and carbon emissions being linked to climate change, alternative ways of powering cars are increasingly being sought out across the industry, and General Motors is hoping to ride the wave of these changes. Advances in manufacturing technology have made new developments progressively more feasible and cost-effective for production, and Chief Executive Mary Barra has made a bold promise to General Motors investors that the Detroit-based manufacturer will be making money from the sale of electric cars by 2021.

The electric cars will be powered from fuel cells or batteries that can be charged at dedicated power points, much like filling stations. The new designs for GM’s electric car range will require a whole host of new parts, and 3D printing technology will prove useful as a way to get these pioneering designs to the production phase. The key will be to produce parts that are as light as possible to maximize fuel efficiency, as well as implementing new production methods in a way that is affordable for the company.

GM recently demonstrated a 3D printed stainless steel seat bracket that was developed using Autodesk’s 3D technology. The two companies made use of cloud computing and artificial intelligence-based algorithms in order to rapidly explore multiple permutations of a part design, before settling on the optimal structure.

With the use of conventional manufacturing methods, a part like this would have required eight different components, sourced from several suppliers. With this new system, the visually-striking seat bracket was made up of just one part, fabricated directly from the digital 3D model. This method has made it 40 percent lighter and 20 percent stronger than it would otherwise have been, with joints and fixtures increasing the total weight and adding to the number of weak points.

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 parts for mass production, as the technology continues to improve. “That is our panacea,” said Quinn. “That’s what we want to get to.”

Other automotive manufacturers, such as BMW and GM’s major U.S. competitor Ford, have been taking advantage of what 3D printing has to offer, with 3D printed tools and 3D printed prototypes becoming increasingly widespread. Ford is now in the process of testing lightweight 3D printed parts for mass production.

Posted in 3D Printing Application

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SLS 3D printing becomes more accessible as Autodesk Netfabb adds support for Sinterit Lisa

Jun 1, 2017 | By David

As 3D printing technology grows in popularity and becomes more accessible, non-professional hobbyists and makers are seeing their range of options gradually expand. However, FDM machines still remain the standard, if not the only type of 3D printer they can use in their own home. That could soon be changing, though, as Autodesk’s popular Netfabb 3D printing software has just added support for Sinterit’s Lisa 3D printer, one of the most affordable desktop SLS machines on the market.

Autodesk has been a leader in 3D design solutions for many years, and its Netfabb software, acquired in 2015, has been a huge hit, enabling those with limited practical manufacturing expertise to easily prepare their 3D CAD models for printing. Adding Netfabb support for the Sinterit Lisa will go a long way towards making laser sintering techniques a viable alternative for amateur 3D printing enthusiasts and small businesses.

Lisa users will now be able to operate their 3D printer in Netfabb’s Standard, Premium, or Ultimate levels.

For Lisa users, any extra complexities and the need to learn new software applications in order to get to grips with SLS methods will be eliminated with the addition of Netfabb support. SLS 3D printing is particularly advantageous because of the extra detail it offers for print jobs, in addition to the huge advantage of printing with metals. Shapes with cavities or overhangs, that would necessitate the use of support structures with FDM printing, can be printed just as easily as any other shape. It also allows several different objects to be produced simultaneously.

Sinterit was founded in 2014 by ex-Google employees, with a mission to bring high-quality SLS machines to the market at a low cost. The Sinterit Lisa was at the forefront of bringing SLS to the hobbyist or small business owner, as its $15,000 price point is significantly less than the $100,000 average price for other machines. It can also fit easily on a desktop.

Several recent upgrades to the Lisa have made it an even more appealing solution to novice and expert 3D printer users alike. It now boasts automatic levelling of the powder bed, along with automatic setting of bed height. Removing powder and reusing it is now much easier too, thanks to a specially designed sieve that has been added to the system.

Duann Scott, Additive Manufacturing and Composites Strategist at Autodesk, is enthusiastic about his company’s own role in increasing the availability of SLS 3D printing technology. “The SLS process provides design freedom and material options that enable high quality, end-use parts not possible with other additive, or traditional manufacturing techniques, and Sinterit is democratizing access to this technology with a massive reduction in price without compromising on part quality,” he says. 

”Autodesk Netfabb gives Sinterit users access to industrial-grade optimization for the SLS process, at the part, build packing, and parameter level to ensure professional results from the desktop SLS 3D Printer. This combination of affordable, professional software and hardware will open up the use cases for polymer additive manufacturing.”

Posted in 3D Software

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Introduction to Autodesk Fusion 360 – Training DVD

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3D Printing with Autodesk 123D, Tinkercad, and MakerBot

Master the art of 3D printing with step-by-step tutorials and DIY projects

Are you ready to join the new industrial revolution? 3D Printing with Autodesk 123D, Tinkercad, and MakerBot reveals how to turn your ideas into physical products that you can use or sell! You’ll learn how to operate powerful, free software from Autodesk and bring your creations to life with the MakerBot–a leading consumer printer–or an online service bureau.

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