GM is using new generative design software technology from Autodesk to support its vehicle lightweighting efforts. Generative design mimics nature’s evolutionary approach to design. Designers or engineers input design goals into generative design software, along with parameters such as such as weight, strength, material choice, fabrication method, and more.
The software system then uses cloud computing and AI-based algorithms rapidly to explore multiple permutations of the part design, generating hundreds of high-performance, often organic-looking geometric design options. The user then determines the best 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. 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.—GM Vice President Ken Kelzer, Global Vehicle Components and Subsystems
The new design technology provides significantly more vehicle mass reduction and parts consolidation opportunities that cannot be achieved through traditional design optimization methods.
GM is utilizing the innovative technology on future product designs. GM and Autodesk engineers have applied this new technology to produce a proof-of-concept part—a seat bracket—that is 40% lighter and 20% stronger than the original part. It also consolidates eight different components into one 3D-printed part.
Proof of concept seat bracket.
As part of a multi-year alliance focused on innovation, GM and Autodesk will collaborate on projects involving generative design, additive manufacturing, and materials science. Executives and engineers from the two companies will participate in a series of onsite engagements to exchange ideas, learnings, and expertise. GM also has on-demand access to Autodesk’s full portfolio of software and technical specialists.
Generative design is the future of manufacturing, and GM is a pioneer in using it to lightweight their future vehicles. 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.—Scott Reese, Autodesk Senior Vice President for Manufacturing and Construction Products
GM has been a leading end-user and innovator in additive manufacturing. For more than three decades, GM has used 3D printing to create three-dimensional parts directly from digital data through successive addition of layers of material. GM 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 5,000 lbs (2,268 kg), or more than 350 pounds (159 kg) per vehicle. Most of the weight reductions are a result of material and technology advancements. Of those models, more than half of the vehicles shed 300 pounds (136 kg) or more, including the all-new 2019 Chevrolet Silverado, which reduced mass by up to 450 pounds (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. 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.