General Motors announced the opening of a new facility at its Warren, Michigan, plant on Monday. The facility will be GM’s in-house 3D printing center, and the carmaker hopes it will help move car production along. We have other hopes of our own.
The Additive Industrialization Center, or AIC, houses 24 3D printers in a 15,000 square foot facility. The printers will produce parts from both polymers and metal. If this seems like a big move, that’s because it is. General Motors made a significant investment in 3D printing; the carmaker claims that the process has transformed its operations.
So far, 3D printing has produced final-assembly parts for two GM models, the CT4-V and CT5-V. These were outfitted with 3D printed emblems for the shifter knobs, an wiring harness bracket and two HVAC ducts. The process also accelerated research and development on the midengine Corvette, not just for parts form and fit, but with actual working prototypes.
And the benefits are far reaching, too. Even though the new facility is in Michigan, the carmaker 3D printed tools needed to manufacture its new SUV platform at its plant in Arlington, Texas.
It’s not just routine operations and development that have benefitted from the new process. You may recall that this year carmakers assisted in the production of medical devices. General Motors says that its investment in 3D printing sped up its transition from producing car parts to producing ventilators and personal protective equipment. What once would have taken weeks on a conventional assembly line took just days.
It’s great that 3D printing is making huge strides in the tech, construction and medical industries. Now the auto industry is joining in, and another of the seemingly inexhaustible possibilities of the technology is the revival of parts that have long been out of production.
We’re not just daydreaming here. OK, we are daydreaming, but the company itself cited “reproduction of classic car parts” as one of the many ways to leverage the technology and we are here for it:
[T]his is just the beginning. Ultimately, we see the potential for 3D-printed parts to be used in a wide variety of production applications – from greater personalization options for new-vehicle buyers, to unique accessories and reproductions of classic car parts.
One day, you may not have to pay a ludicrous amount to drive a restored K5 Blazer. Or, maybe it’s time to start thinking hard about whether to unironically restore that sad, old Chevette.