The V-Series Blackwing models will be the first GM production vehicles with 3D-printed parts, including a unique medallion on the manual shifter knob.

A now mature low-volume manufacturing method saves the sticks. Sort of.

With the American market for cars with stick shifts approaching zero, Cadillac knows that it does not make financial sense to design and build a stick shift for new cars using the old methods. That’s where additive manufacturing comes in.

Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, has been around for almost forty years. Inventor  Charles Hull demonstrated the idea of a machine to print in 3D in 1983. Since that time, design engineers have used the rapid-prototyping tool in order to quickly create low volumes or one-off parts when developing products for later manufacturing. The general idea is one can quickly and cost-effectively create a shape to see how it will fit into a larger machine. Due to limits with the materials that can be 3D printed, most final products are manufactured more cost-effectively and with greater strength using other methods.

So what part of GM’s stick shift that buyers will drive is made by the 3D printer? The little label that is stuck on top of the shifter. Impressive technology leap!

Snarky comments aside, GM is using actual 3D printed parts for the very first time on its new 2022 CT4-V Blackwing and CT5-V Blackwing cars. The functional parts of these very low-volume specialty cars that will be 3D printed and used in the production models are the two HVAC ducts and an electrical harness bracket. Basically shapes that don’t need high tensile strength in order to work properly. 3D printing works great for such components because it is prohibitively expensive to create molds for just a few parts and machining the parts is labor-cost-intensive. Particularly in a union shop. A 3D printer can create a part like this directly from a computer-aided design drafting (CADD) program.

GM says in a press release that by leveraging additive manufacturing, the Cadillac team was able to “reduce costs and waste when developing the manual transmission.” This should be no surprise to anyone familiar with manufacturing. It happens in every industry on a daily basis and has for decades.

Commenting on the stick shift GM will offer in its new Blackwing series cars, Mirza Grebovic, Cadillac performance variant manager said, “A lot of work went into making the manual possible in both vehicles. It’s something we know V-Series buyers want and it’s something we knew we had to have, so we used innovative processes to make it happen.”