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By 袁春凤 (Tiffany)
Faced with the great change of technology and innovation application, GM "laid off" employees
The automotive industry, which has a history of 100 years, is in a period of great changes in various technologies and innovative applications. Traditional automotive giants have begun to adopt different strategies to adapt to this change, such as Toyota restructuring senior management, while GM plans to tailor employees.
In response to the wave of automotive change, GM has chosen large-scale layoffs. According to the plan, GM will close five factories and lay off 15,000 workers in 2019.
Through these measures, GM hopes to save $6 billion by the end of 2020 in order to speed up the company's transformation and cope with the wave of electrification and automation. GM expects to double its investment in electric vehicles and automatic driving in the next two years.
GM's layoffs have been welcomed by Wall Street, but apart from that, workers' associations and the government have been fiercely attacked.
Terry Dittes, head of General Motors at the American Federation of Automobile Workers, said it was a ruthless decision to cut or close factories operating in the United States. The Canadian trade union said GM Canadian workers would fight GM.
S. President Donald Trump has threatened to cancel all subsidies to General Motors in response to the company's closure of U.S. factories and job cuts.
In a push to add alternative-fuel vehicles to its global product offerings, General Motors Co. announced on Tuesday that it will be using 3D-printed parts to achieve its goals, according to Reuters.
GM's 3D Auto Parts Initiative
The leading U.S.-based automobile manufacturer said it is working closely with the leading design software company Autodesk Inc. to print lightweight auto parts using 3D printing technology. This week, company executives demonstrated a 3D-printed seat bracket made of stainless steel and developed with the Autodesk technology. Using regular manufacturing methods, the seat bracket would need around eight different components and several suppliers. When designed with the help of the new technology, it consisted of a single part. It also turned out to be 20 percent stronger and 40 percent lighter. It looked like “a mix between abstract art and science fiction movie.” Along with reducing tooling cost and material waste, it will also help reduce the number of suppliers required by GM.
GM has used 3D printers for prototyping parts for last many years. Over the next year, it believes that the new 3D-printed parts will appear in high-end motorsports applications, and over the next five years it plans to scale up to produce “tens of thousands of parts at scale as the technology improves,” Kevin Quinn, the automaker’s director of additive design and manufacturing, told Reuters.
The 3D-printing based manufacturing industry is working toward mass production and trying to address issues with “repeatability and robustness,” said Bob Yancey, Autodesk’s director of manufacturing. Autodesk has expertise in exploring different variations of a part design using the cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI)-based algorithms.
The leading automaker announced last year it plans to launch 20 new electric and fuel cell models globally by the year 2023. Though electric and battery operated vehicles have seen increasing interest, their mass adoption has been restricted due to their limited range. Lightweight parts could help keep the vehicles lighter and thereby more fuel efficient.
Promising 3D Printing Technology
3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, works by piling up only the required amount of liquefied material, tier by tier. It helps in drastically reducing waste as only the required amount is added, and is in contrast with the conventional subtractive approach where the process involves starting with a large block of material and chipping it away till required shape and size is achieved. (See also, How the 3D-Printing Industry Evolved in 2016.)
GM is not alone in adapting to the promising technology initiative. Earlier, General Electric Co said it would increase the use of 3D printers in its manufacturing processes, while Ford Motor Co. has been testing the 3D printing technology since last year. (For more, see Ford Tests 3D Printing for Parts.)