Additive Manufacturing Gets Cars into Showrooms

Late into the development process of its 2022 full-size SUV, General Motors added a spoiler closeout seal to improve aerodynamics and increase fuel-efficiency. As a result, GM needed 60,000 parts manufactured within six weeks or they risked delaying delivery of 30,000 vehicles to dealerships.

GM’s engineers began evaluating options that would allow GM to meet its delivery deadline while also replicating the design as closely as possible. The company’s additive manufacturing team recommended using Forward AM’s Ultrasint® TPU01 thermoplastic polyurethane powder for the closeout seals and HP’s Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) technology, which yielded a 3D-printed sample comparable to its injection-molded counterpart in both function and appearance. The utilization of Additive Manufacturing Technologies (AMT) post-processing solutions provided the vapor smoothing necessary to achieve the finish that GM desired.

Unlimited Design Possibilities with Ultrasint® TPU01

BASF Forward AM Business Development Manager Jeremy Vos says his team identified workarounds to make sure the project would have enough Ultrasint® TPU01 for the seal (including procuring extra material from a plant in Germany). This was the first time Ultrasint® TPU01 material was scaled to this type of volume and the first time the vapor smoothing process was used to meet this specific color, shine and weatherability requirements. This innovative and pioneering solution was one of the largest-scale deployments of Additive Manufacturing within the automotive industry.

This highly processable, multi-purpose material is explicitly designed for HP’s 5200 series Multi Jet Fusion printers. Ultrasint® TPU01 offers strong, flexible and durable part performance, combined with an excellent surface quality and level of detail. It is extremely easy to print, has a very high process stability, and is a perfect fit for serial production.

“Well, this wasn’t a safety-critical component, and it was engineered from a very similar material [to the injection molded counterpart], which was a TPU, and went through very similar post-processing to get to the finished state. From a chemistry standpoint it was all very similar,” said John Dulchinos, President of GKN Additive.

Read the full General Motors Customer Case Study here.

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