Chevy Looks to Rapid Prototyping for the 2014 Malibu
While some automakers are going digital by replacing wind tunnels and crash tests with HPC-enabled computational fluid dynamics, Chevrolet has added digital manufacturing technology to its arsenal. Abandoning clay for their latest Malibu, the automaker has turned to two types of additive manufacturing to meet their rapid prototyping needs.
While rapid processing requires specialized software, data, and lasers, it can accomplish a task in only a matter of days instead of the weeks that clay sculpting took. And while time is money, 3D printing cut material costs by taking advantage of powders and liquid resins as a part of the selective laser sintering and stereo lithography processes.
Not only does the process allow designers and engineers to build test versions of car components and systems at a much faster rate, but the design team can see, touch, and feel these models without having to make changes to production tooling, thus saving them hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Chief Engineer of Chevrolet mid and full size cars, Todd Pawlik, stated, “When you need to get intricate, fully functional prototype parts quickly, nothing beats rapid prototyping, Our ability to rapidly fabricate inexpensive prototype parts throughout a vehicle enables key components to get confirmed earlier so that we can go from computer models to production-caliber parts.”
On the Malibu, rapid prototyping was used to update the floor console, which now weighs less, improves the fuel economy, and has updated smartphone holders.
It was also used to update the center stack trim and redesigned front fascia on the car. This allowed aerodynamic and climatic wind tunnel testing without the need for expensive parts. In addition, the back panels of the front seats were re-sculpted by rapid processing, which now gives the backseat passengers more knee room.
In order for this all to happen, engineers look to two types of additive manufacturing to get the job done. Selective laser sintering must first fuse plastic, metal, ceramic, or glass powders in cross sections. Then, a laser must scan a pattern on the surface of the powder, fusing the particles together into a layer four-thousandths of an inch thick. As new layers are added, scanned, and fused to the previous one, parts begin to form within the 28-cubic inch reservoir.
After this is complete, stereo lithography combines photochemistry and laser technology to build parts from liquid photopolymer resins. These parts are built up in layers as a UV laser traces the section onto the surface of the resin, curing the liquid into a solid. Since resin won’t support the parts being formed, a lattice-like structure is generated below each part during the process.
The 2014 Malibu is expected to roll into dealerships where consumers can see the 3D printing-enabled updates this Fall.
Full story at Digital Trends.