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From Corvette to coronavirus face shields, 3D printing is enabling GM to work smarter

General Motor is investing in 3D printing technology.

Photo courtesy of General Motors

Three-dimensional printing is taking on larger and larger roles at automakers worldwide. At General Motors (GM), the impact of the implantation of the technology has effected business operations from the building of the newest generation Corvette to the company's pivot to creating supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"3D printing helps us design and build parts and products faster and in ways we previously couldn't," said Kevin Quinn, GM director of additive design and manufacturing. "It's already having a positive impact on how we develop and build vehicles, like Corvette, and it's allowed us to apply our mass production expertise to medical supplies and devices."

General Motors ear savers 3d printing The company produced 3D printed �ear savers,� which help make masks more comfortable for some wearers. Photo courtesy of General Motors

Years ago, when noted first physical version of what would become the C8 came together, 75 percent of its parts were 3D printed. GM says that this allowed its research and development teams to envision how the vehicle would come together and allowed them to diagnose and correct issues early on, leading to a reduced development time.

GM is working to implement the technology even further within its product development and production plans as the technology rapidly develops.

GM has a long history with using 3D printing in development. The company has been using additive manufacturing for rapid prototyping since 1989. Remember 1989? That was the year George H.W. Bush was sworn in as president, serial killer Ted Bundy was executed, Time Warner was created from a merger, and Tim Berners-Lee produced a proposal document for what would become the blueprint for the World Wide Web.

The company's ability to do more 3D printing is due to a recent significant investment in the technology. The Additive Innovation Lab, a 4,000-square-foot facility, opened at the Cole Engineering Center inside GM's Global Technical Center in Warren, Michigan last year. The lab's location makes it accessible to engineers, designers, and other team members. To date, more than 700 employees have been trained by the facility's combined salaried and hourly workforce.

"Most design work takes place in computer-aided design or computer-aided engineering these days, but there's no substitute for having an actual part in hand to prove out your concept, be it a transmission component or a face shield visor," said Quinn.

A second greenfield facility, the Additive Industrialization Center, will begin official operations in late 2020 onsite at GM's Global Technical Center. GM says that the stand-alone facility will further expand the company's expertise and capability in 3D printing and additive manufacturing.

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The teaser image of the 2027 Kia lineup includes numerous cars and SUVs.

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Kia has revealed plans to launch seven new battery electric vehicles (BEVs) by 2027 in numerous segments. The first, code named CV, will launch in 2021 and serve as the kickoff to a new Kia design direction. The move is known internally as the “Plan S" strategy. Under Plan S, Kia's BEV line will include 11 models by 2025.

The announcement coincides with the company's stated goal of having 25 percent of Kia's global sales come from BEVs by 2029. To do that, the company plans to work to expand the world's electric vehicle (EV) charging network. Kia has sold over 100,000 BEVs worldwide since the company introduced its first model in 2011, the Kia Ray.

Kia Ray EV 2011 The Kia Ray was the company's first production EV.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Plan S includes a company-wide business transformation that will include production, sales, and services. Dealerships will likely be required too invest in equipment to handle the influx of EVs. In the U.S, Kia will increase the number of EV work bays at dealerships to 600 by the end of 2020 and increase the number to more than 2,000 by 2023..

The product plan includes a diverse number of models. The vehicles will include BEVs that are “suitable for urban centers, long-range journeys, and performance driving". They will be based on the company's new adaptable Electric-Global Modular Platform (E-GMP). The platform will allow for best-in-class interior spaciousness, according to Kia.

Though subscription services have not gained widespread popularity in the U.S., the company is exploring the creation of subscription services, as well as EV battery leasing and rental programs. Other “second life" battery-related businesses may be part of the plan as well.

Kia also plans to add around 500 charging stations in North America, partnering with its dealer networks. Further, the company is seeking a partner in North America to support a larger infrastructure buildout.

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The new Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross used the Internet of Things to connect to the My Mitsubishi Connect app

Photo courtesy of Mitsubishi Motors North Americ

Mitsubishi has enlisted Aeris and Dealer-FX to better connect owners to their vehicles. Using integrations with the Aeris Mobility Services and Dealer-FX ONE platforms, the My Mitsubishi Connect mobile app will now enable Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross drivers to view real-time service and maintenance needs, as reported by their vehicles.

The system will push timely notifications from the vehicle to the app and the owner's smart mobile device allowing them to act in a matter of seconds rather than trying to remember that a warning light cane in while operating the vehicle.

"Mitsubishi customers are dreamers, achievers, entrepreneurs – active in their communities and in their family homes, and their time is extremely valuable," said Mark Chaffin, Chief Operating Officer of MMNA. "The My Mitsubishi Connect app allows us to enhance their experience, be more efficient with their time and continue to demonstrate our commitment to delivering high quality, top value vehicles with leading-edge technology in the U.S."

This isn't the company's first IoT foray. When it debuted, Mitsubishi Road Assist+ was the first hardware-free, smartphone-based app provided by an OEM that allowed owners to realize the cost savings of usage-based insurance without having to own "connected car" with built-in telematics capabilities or aftermarket-installed telematics hardware.

Mitsubishi continues to grow its presence in the U.S. market. The company recently relocated its headquarters from California to the Nashville, Tennessee area near where Renault-Nissan- Mitsubishi Alliance member Nissan has its North American headquarters.

The company recently announced a partnership with the Nashville Entrepreneur Center to create the Small Batch - Big Ideas Entrepreneur Network, which gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to learn from Mitsubishi executives, among other benefits.

The My Mitsubishi Connect and Mitsubishi Road Assist+ apps are currently available on the Google Play store and the Apple's App Store for use on Android and iOS devices.

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