General Motors (GM) is a world leader in the development of transportation innovations that include electric cars and self-driving vehicle technology. Headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, GM serves six continents with 164,000 employees.
The rear wheelhouse hemming tool used on production of the Chevrolet Equinox is a large device used to join the inner and outer sheet metal fender panels. The tool is traditionally machined from aluminum and requires significant manufacturing lead time (>10 weeks), which doesn’t afford any schedule flexibility in a preproduction environment. If tool changes are needed, significant delays could result. The tool is also heavy, requiring lift assistance to position it on the car. This opens the potential for damaging the sheet metal from hard contact with the tool because of its momentum when moving it into place.
As an alternative, GM opted to 3D print the tool with a Stratasys F900™ 3D printer using FDM® ASA thermoplastic material rather than machine it from an aluminum billet. 3D printing offers lighter materials, a much shorter lead time and faster iteration capability when tool design changes are needed.
The 3D printed hemming tool performed successfully and was:
- Produced in three weeks in contrast to the 10-13 week timeframe needed for an aluminum tool, a lead time savings of over 70%.
- Weight was reduced from 75 pounds for the metal tool to 33 pounds, negating the need for lift assistance and significantly improving ergonomics of the assembly operation.
- Total cost was reduced by 74%.
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