GM vehicles are getting lighter, thanks in part to design processes using cloud computing, AI-based algorithms and 3D printing.
Today, GM’s ability to manufacture lighter vehicles is saving millions of gallons of fuel and avoiding hundreds of tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. There is opportunity, however, to reduce vehicle mass on an even greater scale. Advanced software design technology is ushering in the next generation of vehicle lightweighting that will lead to more efficient alternative propulsion and zero-emission vehicles.
GM is the first automaker in North America to use a new, generative design software that employs cloud computing and AI-based algorithms to rapidly explore multiple permutations of a part design. The software allows a user to set various goals and parameters based on weight, strength, material choice, fabrication method and other factors to determine the best design option for a given vehicle part. 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.
When this technology is paired with manufacturing advancements, such as 3D printing, it will be possible to co-create vehicle parts with a computer in a way that completely transforms the vehicle development process. The result will be significant vehicle mass reduction and greater parts consolidation opportunities than could be achieved through traditional design optimization methods.
Already, GM and Autodesk, who developed the software, have applied this technology to produce a proof-of-concept part—a seat bracket—that is 40 percent lighter and 20 percent stronger than the original part. The technology also consolidates eight different components into one 3D-printed part. As part of a multiyear alliance focused on innovation, GM and Autodesk plan to collaborate on projects involving generative design, additive manufacturing and materials science.
Since 2016, GM has launched 14 new vehicle models with a total mass reduction of 5,003 lbs., or 357 pounds average per vehicle. Most of the weight reduction is a result of material and technology advancements. Of those models, more than half of the vehicles shed 300 pounds or more, including the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado, which reduced mass by up to 450 pounds.