General Motors Autodesk 3D printingUS - General Motors has become the first carmaker to use new generative design software technology from Autodesk - a software company headquartered in San Rafael, California. It is using the technology to design parts that are then 3D printed for proof-of-concept.

"This disruptive technology provides tremendous advancements in how we can design and develop components for our future vehicles to make them lighter and more efficient," explained Ken Kelzer, GM's vice president of global vehicle components and subsystems. "When we pair the design technology with manufacturing advancements such as 3D printing, our approach to vehicle development is completely transformed and is fundamentally different to co-create with the computer in ways we simply couldn’t have imagined before."

The software leverages Cloud computing and AI-based algorithms to provide hundreds of alterations for part designs based on various parameters set by the user such as weight, strength, material choice and fabrication method. It then allows the user to select the best design based on specific performance characteristics.

The two companies have already made a seat bracket that is 40% lighter and 20% stronger than the original. By combining the software with 3D printing, GM managed to consolidate eight components into one 3D-printed part.

The OEM has been using additive manufacturing for three decades. It has made over 250,000 prototype parts in the last ten years, and currently operates 50 rapid prototype machines.