DETROIT—General Motors Co. has used 3D printing since 1989 to help build prototypes faster, but the technology wasn't ready to go much beyond that. Now, GM is 3D printing tools for medical device production and says it soon will start printing parts for production vehicles.
"Hopefully over the next year or so, we will have production parts on our vehicles," said Kevin Quinn, GM's director of additive design and manufacturing. "We've really come a long way from really strictly using it for a prototype."
GM has reached the point where it uses 3D printing to make the majority of parts for some prototypes, such as the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette. Its Additive Innovation Lab, opened last year on the campus of its Warren, Mich., tech center, has trained more than 700 employees so far. A nearby facility, called the Additive Industrialization Center, will be operational later this year.
"We're really excited about the future opportunities and how this technology can grow and really help us be more efficient, effective and really leading in using this technology going forward," Quinn said.
Three-quarters of the parts on the first physical version of the midengine Corvette, shown in 2019, were 3D printed, GM said. The additive manufacturing team invited the Corvette assembly team to Warren, Mich., as it does with most vehicles, for the slow build process, when the assembly team puts all the parts together and evaluates ergonomics and clearance for assembly.