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

Maybe you also like:

Ex-footballer Ian Wright teams up with Floreon for 3D printing competition

Former England footballer, Ian Wright has teamed up with 3D printing filament manufacturers, Floreon, to take part in a customer competition and promote the use of greener plastics.

Floreon have challenged the users of their products to design a pair of spectacles for their new partner. Wright’s eccentric style has caught the eye of many football fans, since the Arsenal legend hung up his boots and entered punditry. Now, using a Floreon glasses template, their customers can design Wright’s next pair of spectacles.

The best design will not only see the creator’s product on the face of one of England’s greatest ever goalscorers, but will also be given an Ultimaker 2+ 3D desktop printer worth £1,665. Additionally, they will also win a set of custom made designer pair of glasses or sunglasses, made by Wright’s optician, Bespoke Eyewear, become a Florean ambassador with a year’s supply of their filament reels and a signed copy of Wright’s autobiography.

Second place will win two reels of filament for every month of the year and a signed copy of Wright’s autobiography, while third place will also pick up a signed copy of the book and a single filament reel for every month for half the year.

To mark the partnership between Floreon and Wright, the 53-year-old will himself be 3D scanned and printed. The competition-winning specs will be worn by the 3D model of Wright’s head, if not by the man himself too.

“I am really excited to be part of the Floreon team and involved in this project. I am also excited to be 3D printed,” said Wright. “There have been 3D-printed football boots but as far as I’m aware, no-one has 3D-printed a life-size ex-footballer, so it will be fun to be the first. And I hope it will make people aware that there are alternatives to oil based plastics that are more than fit for purpose, and don’t harm the environment.

“I am delighted to support Floreon. I have a large family, and I am very passionate about creating a better future for them and everyone.”

Floreon is a specially formulated compound, which is added to standard bioplastic, polylactic acid (PLA) to create an innovative material with a sustainable origin and a range of end of life options. It was created from a desire for a greener, safer form of plastic. Dr Andrew Gill, Floreon’s technical director, hit upon the formula for a new type of 3D printing material and in collaboration with the University of Sheffield, has brought the product to the market.

Enhanced Reading for Blind in Latvia: Mass Portal Teams with Tactile Eyesight & Students for 3D …

UntitledMany of us have been avid readers since we learned to string letters together and manipulate them into formal language. From sandy paperbacks at the beach to beautifully bound classics in the library—to the cereal box—many of us just soak it all in, consuming information of all sorts on a continual basis. We often do so without a thought, and while hopefully we are all lucky on many counts, eyesight and the ability to read, write, and communicate easily and instantly may be one of those constants we most often take for granted.

Along with the ability to see comes appreciation of the power of the printed word accompanied by beautiful illustrations. Often stories and visuals are works of art all by themselves—books that take us away—magically transporting us to other places with exotic people, animals, and places. Can you imagine missing out on that experience, perhaps for a lifetime?

12250081_923599254376143_5775938529026877325_nAnd with hundreds of millions of people unable to see or enjoy the enchantment of reading, the teams from Mass Portal and Tactile Eyesight felt, rightly so, that it was time to find an easier way to bring books to the blind. We’ve seen numerous instances where this Latvian company was involved in some fantastic projects, following them since they began introducing their Pharoah Delta 3D printer by building an onroad scooter to showing off an incredible Iron Man helmet or even better, helping an injured stork with 3D printed leg braces.

Now, tackling the issue of helping the blind to enjoy Braille for greater discovery of both the fictional and non-fictional world, Tactile Eyesight and Mass Portal are working together in another project to make tactile books. This time, visually impaired readers will find Braille on one side, and a 3D printed relief drawing on the other, offering a comprehensive way to enjoy a book and, more importantly, a story.

What makes this project stand out is the considerable ease with which these 3D printed books are produced in comparison with lengthy traditional, often handmade, methods. Blind children have a much easier time learning new concepts, along with enjoying Braille typeface in the Latvian language. And even more exciting for those involved or becoming interested is that the book has been open-sourced by the author, Aigars Vilcāns.

8d629750-3a35-47b9-9759-2547ae13a4e9While the production methods may be easier, still great time, effort, and cooperation have gone into the projects, separating them by book titles. The first book that the teams chose to work together on prototyping was Missing Monkey. With a title that just invokes curiosity, the teams worked to make the contents just as exciting—and readable. Missing Monkey is from the popular Luīzes Pastores Art detective book series, which is very appealing to kids.

For three weeks, the Mass Portal team hosted three students from Lithuania, and in that time they were also able to organize a meeting through Tactile Eyesight so that the students could attend a meeting at the Latvian Society of the Blind.

At the meeting, with the work ahead in mind, they were able to learn about the actual history of tactile books, as well as Braille. Everyone was able to learn more about the project process, along with plans for future illustrations as well.

These talented and tech-savvy students from Lithuania had one major priority though, and that pertained to the 3D aspects of the book. With the assignment being to ‘build illustration 3D terrain models’ using Sketchup and then 3D print the prototypes, they had some rather fun work cut out for them. It was important for them to achieve finely detailed 3D images in order to heighten the process for their eventual readers.


“It was the first time they worked with SketchUp and 3D printers, but they did good work and are very proud and pleased about this opportunity,” stated the Mass Portal team in a recent press release.

All generated drawings will be used for further exploration at Strazdumuiža Residental Secondary School and Training Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, where children and young people will examine them.

569a58ca-5555-4d33-9c40-87cf2392363f”Books are alive. [They are a] symbol of human development and cultural grandeur. Book illustrations are very important for young children. Looking at the pictures, a child learns new words and concepts. They are aware of the world around them,” said Mass Portal marketing manager Inga Žilinska.

“[It’s the] same experience for children with visual impairments when they are provided with tangible three dimensional images. Its a real pleasure to be part of this process for every one of us, enabling children and young people to integrate into society by showing them yet unseen and unfamiliar world wonders that we seem to find self-evident. Engaging in this project implementation we each took home a small piece of the blind peoples’ world.”

As the teams work meticulously to make the books great, the project has taken longer than they originally expected. With expert assistance, however, the two teams are on their way to some excellent tactile book making, on their way to expanding this new and valuable 3D inventory for the visually impaired in their country. Discuss in the 3D Printed Tactile Books forum over at

CT and 3D Printing Help Teams Separate Conjoined Twins

CHICAGO — CT imaging and 3-dimensional printing were used to help plan one of the most complicated surgical separations of conjoined twins to date.

Although other teams have printed models of skeletons or of particular organs, the complexity of this model is one of a kind, said Rajesh Krishnamurthy, MD, chief of radiology research and cardiac imaging at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.

“This is the first time we’ve tried to represent the entire anatomy of the babies in a single model,” he told Medscape Medical News. The model involved skeletal, cardiovascular, blood vessels, gastrointestinal, and gynecologic structures.

Dr Krishnamurthy described the procedure during a news conference here at the Radiological Society of North America 2015 Annual Meeting.

The twins, Knatalye Hope and Adeline Faith Mata, were born on April 11, 2014. They were connected from the chest to the pelvis, but had separate brains and hearts.

3D printed model (Courtesy of Texas Children’s Hospital)

“We didn’t start out saying we wanted to make this amazing 3D print,” Dr Krishnamurthy explained. “But once we had all the pieces of information, we realized it is now feasible with technology to do a print that incorporated all of that.”

The team started imaging for the model when the twins were about 5 months old.

The radiologists used a technique called target mode prospective ECG gating to freeze the motion of the hearts and the lungs on the images. They were then able to get a detailed view of the cardiovascular anatomy while keeping exposure to radiation low.

Intravenous contrast was separately administered to both girls, but oral contrast was administered to only one of them. The model was able to show how blood would flow to each organ in each girl.

From the first imaging session, the model took about 3 weeks to complete, which included a week of manufacturing at a Dallas company. The cost for materials and printing time was about $4000, Dr Krishnamurthy reported. Different colors and textures were used to represent bones, organs, and blood vessels.

The model was designed to be taken apart along the surgical lines of separation. Doctors could remove single parts and look at the underlying anatomy.

26-Hour Surgery

The central model was essential in offering a common reference point in planning meetings, said Dr Krishnamurthy. The 26-hour surgery was completed on February 17 by 12 surgeons, six anesthesiologists, and eight nurses.

Both girls are thriving.

Both girls are thriving, and they are getting follow-up orthopedic care, he said.

The information a model like this adds is invaluable for surgical teams and for patient and family comprehension, Dr Krishnamurthy said.

“We were able to use it to explain the procedure to the parents and the team members. I can tell you that the mom, after she saw the model, said, ‘For the first time, I really understand what’s going to happen to my babies.’ This was after 3 months,” he said.

“In the future, this will be a standard process for every conjoined twin separation,” he predicted.

Video courtesy of Texas Children’s Hospital.

Radiological Society of North Amserica (RSNA) 2015 Annual Meeting: Abstract SSM20-01. Presented December 2, 2015.