DETROIT—Engineers at General Motors are using advanced software to tackle next-generation vehicle lightweighting challenges.

GM is the first automaker in North America to use new generative design software technology from Autodesk. It features cloud computing and AI-based algorithms to rapidly explore multiple permutations of a part design, generating hundreds of geometric design options.

Engineers input parameters, such as weight, strength, material choice and fabrication method, to determine the best lightweight part design option.

“This disruptive technology provides tremendous advancements in how we can develop components for our future vehicles to make them lighter and more efficient,” says Ken Kelzer, GM vice president of global vehicle components and subsystems.

“When we pair the design technology with manufacturing advancements, such as 3D printing, our approach to vehicle development is completely transformed and is fundamentally different,” explains Kelzer. “[It enables us] to co-create with the computer in ways we simply couldn’t have imagined before.

“The technology is key to developing efficient, lighter alternative propulsion and zero emission vehicles,” adds Kelzer. “It provides significantly more vehicle mass reduction and parts consolidation opportunities that cannot be achieved through traditional design optimization methods.”

GM engineers recently used the software to produce a seat bracket that is 40 percent lighter and 20 percent stronger than the original part. It also consolidates eight different components into one 3D-printed part.

“Generative design is the future of manufacturing,” claims Scott Reese, senior vice president for manufacturing and construction products at Autodesk. “Generative technologies fundamentally change how engineering work is done, because the manufacturing process is built into design options from the start.”