General Motors hosted the 2013 GM China Tech Day at the GM China Advanced Technical Center (ATC) in Shanghai from 9-12 December. GM created this annual event in 2011 to introduce its latest technology achievements to Chinese media. This year’s event showcased developments in advanced manufacturing processes, user-friendly automotive technologies and advanced vehicle designs at the ATC. Among the areas of emphasis were:
GM’s Global Battery Systems Lab in Shanghai is one of GM’s three key battery testing facilities worldwide. Research being carried out at the lab is increasing the company’s understanding of lithium-ion batteries to support the development of next-generation batteries that are less expensive, offer better performance and are more durable.
In October, the lab received certification from the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA) for electrical testing. It operates at the same standard as GM’s battery lab in the United States. Data and reports from the Shanghai lab are now being recognized by global organizations.
At the ATC’s Lightweight Materials Lab, GM is exploring lightweight magnesium alloy technology. Parts made from magnesium help reduce vehicle weight, resulting in better fuel economy. In May, GM received the 2013 International Magnesium Association (IMA) Awards of Excellence for the development of a magnesium-alloy decklid at the lab.
A patented magnesium alloy technology was developed by the GM China Science Lab in collaboration with GM North America Research and Development group. The alloy has a tolerance of 175 °C, compared with 120 °C for conventional magnesium alloys. As a result, the new magnesium alloy has the potential to be used in engine parts, which must withstand higher temperatures. The lab is now testing the alloy in engine mount brackets.
The Concept Vehicle Integration Lab has advanced processing equipment. Its 5-axis Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine produces highly complex machine parts with a high level of accuracy and in a timely manner. A blue light scanner can scan and develop three-dimensional mathematical models. Water jet cutters can pressurize tap water to 250-400 Mpa. Here, engineers can rapidly produce prototypes of parts and at far lower cost than with traditional manufacturing. This helps them evaluate potential designs and make faster decisions, speeding new products to the market faster.
The Structures and Chassis Lab is carrying out research on vehicle subsystems by simulating real-world driving conditions. It is also testing chassis components, gear shifts, tires and wheel components. Among the technology being used is a wheel vertical impact test machine; this is the first GM facility with this equipment. The lab carries out 100,000 door opening/closing and 220,000 gear shift tests on individual vehicles to test for long-term performance and durability.
The OnStar Lab at the ATC is carrying out an array of tests to support the development of new services and technologies for OnStar. It is GM’s only lab outside North America that is capable of performing remote in-car software updates.
The company is providing owners of vehicles from Shanghai GM that are equipped with OnStar a growing array of services and technologies developed specifically for the local market. They include the My Vehicle Location and OnConnect services for OnStar’s mobile app, the Medical Assistant service, and the Voice Contact service that leverages the “cloud” to offer voice recognition for safer driving.
With the assistance of Shanghai GM, the OnStar Lab is collecting diagnostic data on vehicle performance and driver habits that could support the development of more user-friendly automotive products in the future.
The sound reference room in the Electrical Lab is one of the few high-fidelity audio performance rooms in China that can generate high-quality sound effects to help evaluate vehicle sound systems. GM audiologists can determine the best listening distance and provide professional technical proposals for audiovisual devices in GM vehicles to ensure the highest-quality onboard entertainment.
The Touch, Appearance, Lighting and Color Lab conducts comprehensive testing on the touch, appearance, lighting and color of vehicle materials. The goal of engineers working in this lab is to produce materials with a qualitatively high-grade and homogeneous appearance.
The Advanced Design Center in the ATC includes state-of-the-art tools for vehicle design, including virtual reality, full-size car modeling, milling and full-size model viewing. It supports GM’s regional and global product development strategies, and enables designers to explore future mobility solutions and technology integration.
The ATC’s virtual reality room is the first facility of its kind to use 4,000-DPI Digital Light Procession technology for evaluating two-dimensional and three-dimensional data in real time. Its expansive indoor viewing area allows designers to validate full-size clay models in “real world” natural light.
Milling machines produce clay models in scale using computerized three-dimensional data. Designers are using these models to evaluate vehicle proportions and finalize surface graphics and line-work during the design process for refinement and criteria balancing.
GM and its joint ventures just passed the 3-million units sales mark in one year for the first time in China. (Earlier post.)