Supply shortages continue to be a hindrance for manufacturers and customers eagerly awaiting their new vehicles’ arrival. Sometimes problems require innovative solutions to overcome the obstacle, which is precisely what General Motors has done to produce a component needed for delivery of the 2022 Chevrolet Tahoe. They’ve done so with the use of 3D printing, a technique normally reserved for prototyping.
Thousands Of Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs With 3D Printed Parts
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, allows people to craft fully formed parts from digital models. According to CNET, in the year 2020, General Motors made a significant investment in the tech and dedicated 15,000 square feet of space to a facility dubbed the Additive Industrialization Center. Recently, Chevrolet engineers made a late change to the 2022 Tahoe’s design, which brought about the need for an additional part. A new, flexible “spoiler closeout seal” which fills a gap at the rear of the SUV. Developing the tooling to injection mold the vehicles would have taken too long, causing 30,000 vehicle deliveries to be delayed.
To prevent delays, GM engineers partnered with GKN Additive Forecast 3D, experts in additive manufacturing at industrial scales. GKN engineers were able to quickly print the components using a flexible material that met GM’s criteria. The parts were created using HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printers. In order to give the part a shinier finish, they used a process called vapor polishing.
The Chevrolet Tahoe requires two seals, which meant Chevrolet needed 60,000 of them, and in just five weeks, GKN Additive Forecast 3D delivered. For comparison’s sake, that’s less than half the time it would have taken to go the injection-molding route. All of the SUVs were out of the door on time. This is likely the largest deployment of 3D printing in a production car and could very well give some insight into how things may be in the future.