US-based automotive manufacturer General Motors (GM) has unveiled plans to build a new hatchback with more 3D printed parts than any of its cars have ever featured before.
Set to be built under GM’s Cadillac brand in an $81 million project, the ‘Celestiq’ is designed to be a ultra-luxurious electric vehicle (EV), packed with cutting-edge technological innovations. As such, the sedan will not only feature a four-quadrant smart glass roof and ‘pillar-to-pillar’ freeform display, but over 100 plastic and metal 3D printed parts.
“As Cadillac’s future flagship sedan, Celestiq signifies a new, resurgent era for the brand,” said GM President Mark Reuss. “Each one will be hand-built by an amazing team of craftspeople on our historic Technical Center campus, and today’s investment announcement emphasizes our commitment to delivering a world-class Cadillac with nothing but the best in craftsmanship, design, engineering and technology.”
GM’s expanding 3D printing exploits
Based in Detroit, Michigan, GM is one of the world’s largest car manufacturers, with plants in eight different countries, responsible for building Chevrolet, Buick and GMC vehicles, among others. As you’d expect from a multinational that shipped just under 6.3 million motors last year, GM utilizes a range of technologies within its production chain, including 3D printing, albeit mainly for tooling and R&D purposes.
In 2018, the company revealed that utilizing the technology alongside Autodesk software, had allowed it to transform its vehicle development process. Specifically, GM announced that using generative design to lightweight vehicles, had enabled it to optimize the interior space and performance of its cars over the two years prior, while reducing their average mass by more than 350 pounds.
Later that year, GM also declared that it had saved $300,000 by switching to 3D printed tooling at its Lansing Delta Township assembly complex. While this figure was reached via multiple parts over three years, the firm revealed that in one example, a tool used to align engine and transmission vehicle identification numbers, could be 3D printed for less than $3, but would cost $3,000 if outsourced.
More recently, GM has expanded its adoption of the technology, with the opening of its Additive Industrialization Center. Home to 24 SLS, SLM, FDM and MJF 3D printers, the company’s 15,000 sq. ft facility has already yielded lighter, more ergonomic hand-apply tools, rapid-response solutions and prototypes, but it’s now increasingly moving into the low-volume production of end-use parts.
Investing $81M in EV innovation
Once ready, the Celestiq will become just the latest Cadillac to feature 3D printed parts, after the CT4-V and CT5-V were shipped with emblem, HVAC and transmission components produced via the technology. However, the EV will still have an element of novelty to it, as it’s set to be the first production vehicle built at GM’s Global Technical Center, which has been at the heart of its R&D since 1956.
In terms of design philosophy, the Celestiq is being built around GM’s Ultium Platform, a flexible EV architecture that encompasses battery cells, modules, packs, drive units, motors and power electronics. In the words of GM, the Ultium workflow allows for “streamlined vehicle assembly” in a way that yields cost efficiency, as well as cars that feature “outstanding power, range and performance.”
As the first car built at GM’s Global Technical Center, the Celestiq will be in the unique position to be able to take advantage of its Additive Industrialization Center, which opened there in 2020. In practice, this will see the EV fitted with a combination of structural and cosmetic 3D printed parts, while also being assembled using a variety of additive manufactured tooling, fixtures and gauges.
Ahead of the Celestiq’s show car debut in late-July 2022, GM has committed $81 million towards its production, funding that’s set to be used for buying and installing the equipment needed to build it by hand. This investment, according to Gerald Johnson, the company’s Executive VP of Global Manufacturing and Sustainability, goes to show how it remains committed to its environmental agenda.
“This investment is a great example of our commitment to GM’s EV transformation as we apply our manufacturing expertise to a one-of-a-kind, ultra-luxury vehicle for the Cadillac brand,” added Johnson. “The advanced manufacturing technology and tools we are utilizing on Celestiq will help our team deliver the highest quality vehicles to our customers.”
AM in the competitive automotive world
Due to the competitive nature of the automotive world, manufacturers don’t tend to publicize their adoption of cutting-edge technologies, but many of the world’s largest are known to be 3D printing adopters. Speaking to 3D Printing Industry in March 2022, Ellen Lee revealed that Ford’s 3D printing activities now range from fluid flow visualization to producing prototypes for wind tunnel testing.
Over in Germany, Audi has also ramped up its adoption of automotive 3D printed hot form tooling at its facility in Ingolstadt. By expanding its use of EOS systems, the firm says it’s now able to produce twelve different segments of four hot forming tools at the facility, which are later used to assemble cars such as the A4 saloon.
BMW, meanwhile, has announced the successful industrialization of additive manufacturing via its IDAM project. Over the last three years, the initiative has seen the company and its partners establish two automotive 3D printing production lines, capable of independently churning out around 50,000 parts per year.
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Featured image shows a teaser of the new Cadillac Celestiq. Image via GM Authority.