Tooling: Senior engineer Malini Dusey discusses GM’s application of additive manufacturing with TCT


As Scott Crump’s career drew to a close last year, the inventor of fusion deposition modeling began to reflect on many of the highlights of his 31-year stint in the additive manufacturing industry. There were the grueling night shifts in the ’80s, continued investment in the’ 90s, partnerships with some of the biggest manufacturers of the ’00s, and, of course, the mainstream media attention of the 2010s.

The year before his retirement, however, there was a visit to the manufacturing site that would stand out, represent the advancements in 3D printing technology, and confirm to Crump that his efforts over the previous three decades had worth it.

AT General Motors (GM), he joined a group of 25 engineers to walk through various segments of a production line and place post-its whenever they found a suitable 3D printing application. Crump expected them to find around 20 between them. They identified 200.

General Motors’ use of 3D printing dates back to the early days. The company has a long history of using processes such as FDM for prototyping, but like many other automakers, it has seen the application of the technology grow in recent years.

The company’s big victories have come primarily in tooling applications, with Malini Dusey, senior additive manufacturing engineer at General Motors, suggesting that GM has established itself as a leader in 3D printed automotive tools. Dusey and his colleagues at the Warren Tech Center are responsible for the additive manufacturing of these components, which are then delivered to GM assembly plants in less than 24 hours.

“When GM is about to put new vehicles on the road,” says Dusey, “we’re looking to deploy the tooling very efficiently and very quickly, looking at what the needs are, how can we improve processes, where are the biggest challenges, where are the areas where we can really make a difference? The reduction of lead times is of the utmost importance, and we find that with the use of additive manufacturing we are able to build these tools very quickly, adapt to the process, they conform to the shape of the machine exactly. work to be done, and also the light ones.

Most commonly, GM leverages its healthy repertoire of FDM systems, which was bolstered in late 2019 with 17 additional Stratasys systems, including several F900 platforms. This equipment is used to additively manufacture hand-held tools, as well as larger parts that may require assembly after printing, with powder bed melting technology also available. FDM has been invested for its ability to produce load-bearing applications with carbon fiber reinforced nylon and other “high-engineering plastics”, while its SLS systems are more likely to be deployed for thin-walled parts.

While General Motors opened its additives industrialization center at the Warren Tech Center last year, the company underscored its commitment to “3D printing production” and revealed that the Cadillac CT4-V and CT5- V Blackwing were the first GM production vehicles equipped with 3D technology. printed parts.

For these production parts, General Motors will take the same approach as with its tooling components. It’s an approach that has worked so far – at last year’s launch of full-size SUVs at the Arlington, Texas assembly plant, GM supplied around 100 hand tools that were manufactured from additively nylon carbon fiber composite instead of aluminum, bringing the weight reduced in parts from 10 to 40 lbs to 3 lbs.

“Just because you can use an additive for something doesn’t mean you should,” Dusey says. “As we look around again, this is fueled by the needs and challenges of our manufacturing plants and field employees as well as our supply base, as the supply case is just as stretched in terms of anything that moves so fast. Examining their challenges and seeing what we can do to help create tools to meet their needs is what they are focusing on. This allows us to identify critical needs where the additive would be a good solution.

General Motors draws on the knowledge of a range of staff to identify internal applications of additives. Shop floor staff, engineers, management and suppliers have all been mobilized as General Motors seeks to make the most of technology. And as Crump fondly recalls, it’s not uncommon for the company to also tap into the design expertise of 3D printing technology vendors in an effort to find solutions.

“It’s company-wide,” concludes Dusey. “It comes straight from the people in the shop who actually use it – they have the most immediate need – but they will only know what is possible if they are made aware of the capabilities of the additive and even more so. they had some quick successes. Quick success makes a great advocate and allows them to come up with new ideas in the future. This is relevant from the manufacturing floor to management. Each team has different needs and is made up of different people who are looking to speed up their work in a different way. The needs are varied. However, once they are made aware of the capabilities, this is translated into the app very quickly.

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