Tesla’s Gigapress: A Revolutionary Production Method
Tesla has been a game-changer in the automotive industry, proving to global auto giants the potential of using electric motors. Despite the efforts of established automakers to follow in Tesla’s footsteps, they still lag behind in terms of sales. Elon Musk, the owner of Tesla, has another trick up his sleeve that will significantly increase his lead over the competition. In this article, we will discuss Tesla’s revolutionary production method using Gigapress and the impact it may have on the automotive industry.
The Structure of a Car
A car is composed of up to 30,000 parts that need to be installed, fixed, and fine-tuned. Toyota discovered this figure after disassembling one of their cars. However, it only takes Tesla 90 minutes to assemble a car from ready-made kits using the latest industrial robots. As a result, there is every reason to believe that Tesla’s assembly speed will be even faster in the near future.
The Tesla Model Y
Up until recently, Tesla adhered to the classic format of assembling vehicles from stamped parts, relying on the use of the latest industrial robots. However, at the decisive stage of the Tesla Model Y release, the company decided to partially abandon robotic assembly in favor of a completely different production method: injection molding of individual body parts. The Tesla Model Y rear underbody is the first piece to be molded in a one-piece format. In an interview, Elon Musk explained in detail why this particular body element was chosen.
The Gigapress Machine
The rear of the under tray is usually two high pressure die-cast aluminum parts that are connected to each other and many other elements. Putting two pieces together, even with the help of robots, is a laborious task. For the most precise fit, the mating parts must be machined on a high precision machine. After this, about 70 more components are attached to them, making it look like a patchwork quilt, which, according to Musk, is not great. To address this, Tesla engineers decided to move away from such a multi-component assembly in favor of a single molded part. For these purposes, the company purchased the largest die-casting machines in the world by the name Gigapress from the only manufacturer of such equipment, the IDRA Italian Industrial Corporation part of the LK Group.
Working of the Gigapress Machine
For the injection molding process, the Gigapress machine goes through the following stages. First, aluminum blocks and off-cuts from the previous molding cycle are sent to a smelting furnace powered by natural gas. They are then melted at a temperature of 850 degrees Celsius and sent through pipes to another closed furnace, where the temperature is maintained between 750 and 850 degrees Celsius. The empty space inside the furnace is filled with nitrogen, which prevents the formation of oxides in the molten aluminum and maintains a uniform temperature. The molten metal is then sent from the holding furnace to the stem chamber, where a high-speed press pushes the aluminum into the mold. The raw casting remains in the mold to cool down to 400 degrees Celsius and solidify. The raw casting is then placed in a hardening bath to quickly reduce the metal temperature from 400 to 50 degrees Celsius. X-ray checks for internal defects are carried out before each raw part is cut to the required size. Finally, the finished cast part is checked on a coordinate measuring machine and transferred to the assembly department.
Advantages of the Gigapress Machine
One of the main advantages of the Gigapress machines is that they run virtually non-stop. At the same time, the production time for one single piece is only 80 to 90 seconds. This corresponds to a production rate of 40 to 45 completed castings per hour or about 1,000 castings per day or more than 300,000 castings per year per installation. New technology will allow Tesla to reduce the assembly line by 20% and reduce labor costs, maintenance of robotic equipment, delivery, and storage of parts. Moreover, a qualitatively new approach will allow Tesla to significantly outperform competitors in terms of car assembly speed and make this process more predictable and automated.
Future of the Gigapress Machine
Today, Tesla has installed two Gigapresses at its Fremont plant. The other three machines were seen at the Gigafactory Shanghai complex. Up to eight more die-casting machines are planned to be located at the facilities of the Gigafactory Berlin in Germany, where the production of the Tesla Model Y is being launched. In addition, IDRA confirmed the delivery of the larger 9000-ton presses, which will be used to stamp the body parts of the Tesla Cyber Truck at the GigaTexas enterprise.
The use of Gigapress equipment at all Tesla factories will help Elon Musk’s company make another major breakthrough to expand the Tesla lineup in order to cover all major segments from pickups to sports cars. Tesla continues to be a company that swims against the tide at all times and still shows stunning results despite all the difficulties. The Gigamania of Tesla and Elon Musk is nothing more than another triumph of engineering thoughts and the ability to see what others do not notice. The new auto manufacturing technology with Gigapresses can be considered one of the technological revolutions of the 21st century. It remains to be seen if competitors will be able to keep up with the pace of Tesla’s fast and innovative production methods.