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3D-printed seat bracket
Image: GM

General Motors has described how it is using generative design software from Autodesk in its next-generation lightweighting programme, and how this is helping the development of more efficient alternative-propulsion and zero-emission vehicles.

Using cloud computing and AI-based algorithms, multiple permutations of a component can be explored and geometric design options generated, based on selected parameters such as weight, strength, material choice or fabrication method. The technology helps to both reduce vehicle mass and consolidate components: GM cites a seat bracket concept [pictured] that replaces eight different parts with one 3D-printed part, yet is 40pc lighter and 20pc stronger than the original.

“Generative design is the future of manufacturing, and GM is a pioneer in using it to lightweight their future vehicles,” said Scott Reese, Autodesk’s senior VP for manufacturing and construction products, in a statement. “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.”

Ken Kelzer, GM VP for global vehicle components and subsystems, adds: “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 and Autodesk are to continue their collaboration, running further projects on generative design, additive manufacturing and materials science.

-Farah Alkhalisi