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General Motors 3D prints 60,000 seals in five weeks using HP printers

The flexible "spoiler closeout seals" were needed to fill the gap at the rear of the SUV

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When General Motors was unable to produce a component needed for the delivery of the 2022 Chevrolet Tahoe, the company’s engineers turned to 3D printing, as many companies facing supply chain challenges are doing, increasingly.

General Motors prints 60,000 seals in five weeks using HP printers. Flexible "spoiler closeout seals" to fill the gap at the rear of the SUVs
As the seals come out of the printer, they are functional but not perfect

General Motors made a major investment in additive manufacturing technology in 2020, dedicating 15,000 square feet of space to facilitate what the company calls the ‘Additive Industrialization Center’. 3dpbm has the opportunity to speak in-depth with GM about the copany’ adoption of AM for our AM Focus Automotive 2021 issue, when we learned how GM has been exploring the use of 3D printing for automotive production for over a decade and is now aiming to fully integrate the technology as an essential tool in its production toolbox.

At the time we spoke with Ali Shabbir, Engineering Group Manager for Product Applications, and Dominick Lentine, Engineering Group Manager for Manufacturing Applications. A year later, Chevrolet engineers needed to make a last-minute change to the 2022 Tahoe’s design, resulting in the need for the creation of an  additional part – a flexible “spoiler closeout seal” to fill the gap at the rear of the SUV.

Developing the injection-molding tool would have taken too long, and would have delayed the delivery of 30,000 vehicles. Instead, General Motors engineers decided to partner 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 General Motors’ criteria – using HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printers. GKN engineers then used a process called ‘vapor polishing’ to give the parts a perfect shine.

General Motors prints 60,000 seals in five weeks using HP printers. Flexible "spoiler closeout seals" to fill the gap at the rear of the SUVs
After the seals have been post-processed (in this case – vapor polished) they are ready for installation

Considering that each Tahoe requires two seals – Chevrolet needed 60,000 of them to complete the SUVs. A number that GKN Additive Forecast 3D delivered in just five weeks – less than half the time it would have taken to create the seals using injection molding.

Although this isn’t the first time 3D printing has been used as an aid in the production line of cars, it is one of the largest-scale deployments of AM in the world of production cars.

This story has been reported by CNET, and confirmed to 3dpbm by Wayne Davey during our interview at TCT – which will be published in the following days.

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Edward Wakefield

Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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