Automotive

General Motors saves $300,000 by switching to 3D printed tooling

The Lansing Delta Township assembly plant of American multinational vehicle manufacturer General Motors has reported an expected cost saving of over $300,000 since it acquired a 3D printer three years ago.

The savings were described to specialist General Motors Reporter Michael Wayland at Automotive News by Zane Meike, 3D printing lead at the Michigan plant.

Driving forward its 3D printing efforts, the plant eventually expects to create annual cost savings in the millions of dollars.

Zane Meike holds sample 3D printed tool at the Lansing Delta Township assembly plant in Michigan. Photo by Michael Wayland/Automotive News
Zane Meike holds sample 3D printed tool at the Lansing Delta Township assembly plant in Michigan. Photo by Michael Wayland/Automotive News

$3,000 to $3

Though, in collaboration with Autodesk, General Motors is also applying 3D printing to produce lighter electric vehicles, these headline figures are generated by the production of tools to be used on the assembly line.

Traditionally, much assembly tooling would be machined from metal, costing hundreds, or often thousands of dollars to produce. Additionally, if that part gets broken, or needs improvement, it would result in further expenses to the manufacturer.

With 3D printing, tooling, jigs and fixtures can be produced for a fraction of the cost. An example tool, used to align engine and transmission vehicle identification numbers, 3D printed at General Motors cost less than $3 to make using 3D printing. If outsourced, the part would have cost the plant $3,000.

New devices can also be made quickly on site, cutting down downtime or inefficiency due to a faulty/broken tool.

Potential parts generated by Autodesk's design platform for General Motors. Image via Autodesk
Potential 3D printed parts created in Autodesk’s generative design platform for General Motors. Image via Autodesk

3D printing as standard

According to Dan Grieshaber, director of global manufacturing integration at General Motors, most of the company’s factories now have 3D printers.

The Lansing Delta Township assembly plant in Michigan uses a polymer 3D printer costing in the region of $35,000, puts the machine in the mid-range of industrial 3D printers.

The plan now is to standardize the production of 3D printed tooling within General Motors, for easy roll-out across all sites.

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Featured image shows SUV assembly at the General Motors Lansing Delta Township plant. Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

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