General Motors is one of many automotive manufacturers who have integrated 3D printing into their workflows. This integration has allowed GM’s processes to flourish, running much more efficiently and saving them loads of money. The company expects that as 3D printing becomes a more integral part of their production, they will experience millions of dollars in savings. According to Dan Grieshaber, General Motor’s Director of Global Manufacturing Integration, 3D printing is expanding so much at GM that they are now beginning to standardize it within in their operations.

“We’re quickly evolving, creating real value for the plant,” Grieshaber provided during a tour of GM’s Lansing Delta Township assembly plant in mid-Michigan last week. “This will become, as we progress, our footprint. We’ll have this in every one of our sites.”

The Lansing-based plant was opened back in 2006 and features various forms cutting-edge technology. GM classifies 3D printing as “Manufacturing 4.0,” a category that includes using drones for assembly station inspection and utilizing robots to aide employees.

GM uses a 3D printed tool to align engine and transmission vehicle identification numbers

Head of 3D Printing at the plant, Zeke Meike, GM purchased their 3D printer for about $35,000 in 2016. Since its installment, the 3D printer has saved them over $300,000 in tools, fixtures and other accessories. Meike explained just how important 3D printing has become to their profitability, explaining that one tool that they now 3D print for just $3 a part used to cost them around $3,000 from third-party sellers.

Currently, GM uses their 3D printer to produce a variety of things, ranging from socket covers to ergonomic or safety tools. This isn’t their ultimate goal for their 3D printer, however, as they plan to 3D print a wide range of car parts – helping to make their vehicale lighter and cheaper to produce. The company also plans to heavily utilize their 3D printer for the upcoming development of alternative energy vehicles.

The Director of Additive Design and Manufacturing at GM, Kevin Quinn, hinted that there will be a major use of 3D printed parts in their high-end sports cars by just next year. Within five years, GM is hoping to produce thousands or even tens of thousands of 3D printed parts for mass production, as the technology continues to improve. “That is our panacea,” said Quinn. “That’s what we want to get to.”

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