‘Lightweighting’ tech to benefit future GM cars

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GM component
A lightweight GM component designed through advanced software, 3-D printing.

GENERAL Motors (GM) is using a new design software in creating the next generation of vehicle “lightweighting” — basically shaving weight off cars to make these more fuel efficient and cleaner.

In a statement, the company — maker of Chevrolet cars and trucks, among others — said it has tapped US software company Autodesk for a technology that “uses cloud computing and AI-based algorithms to rapidly explore multiple permutations of a parts design.” The software allows GM to determine the “best part design part option” as it can generate hundreds of design options based on goals and parameters — weight, strength, material choice, fabrication method, and more — set by company engineers.

“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,” said Ken Kelzer, GM vice-president for global vehicle components and subsystems. “When we pair the design technology with manufacturing advancements such as 3-D 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 said it is already integrating lightweight, high-strength materials in its Chevrolet Colorado pickup and Trailblazer SUV.

It added it has used the Autodesk software to produce a proof-of-concept component — a seat bracket — that is 40% lighter and 20% stronger than the existing part on which it is based.

GM said it would collaborate with Autodesk on “projects involving generative design, additive manufacturing and materials science.”

“Generative design is the future of manufacturing, and GM is a pioneer in using it to lightweight their future vehicles,” GM quoted Scott Reese, Autodesk senior vice-president for manufacturing and construction products.

GM said that since 2016 it has launched 14 new models with a total mass reduction of more than 2,250 kilograms, or more than 157 kilograms 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 at least 135 kilograms.

The company noted that lighter components could create vehicles with more interior space and features, as well as increase their range and performance.