When the coronavirus pandemic first struck the United States, the country’s automakers were tasked with helping to meet the demand for medical and PPE equipment. General Motors was able to use their experience with 3D-printing to facilitate the production of face shields for first responders on the front lines. But as it turns out, the General’s pre-coronavirus experience with 3D-printed parts had some serious impact on the development of the C8 Corvette.
According to a report by Car and Driver, General Motors used a huge amount of 3D-printed parts during the early stages of the mid-engined sports cars development. In fact, before the C8 Corvette was unveiled to the world last summer, Chevrolet had built a nonoperational vehicle with some 75 percent 3D printed parts. That said, this is certainly not the case on the production models.
The reason for using 3D printing is actually rather simple. The process allows for the GM engineers to check spacing and test fit parts at a much faster rate than before. These 3D printed parts can be iterated at a rate of nearly five times a week, something that couldn’t be matched with more traditional methods. According to that C&D report, this was crucial as the company worked on both the drop-top and right hand drive variants of the C8 Corvette. In the case of the convertible model, the team was able to test the functionality of the top and were able to make adjustments before finalizing anything.
The 3D printed parts have also continued to play a role in the C8’s life on the assembly line. While the car was in its early stages, GM was able to use these printed parts to train the factory robots, allowing the machines to study access points and buildability before the real parts are placed in front of them.
While we are still some time away from 3D printed parts accounting for a large portion of our cars, the technology is clearly on the minds of automakers. Its integration into the development of vehicles thus far has been beneficial, both for the automakers and for the general public during this pandemic.