High Pressure Die Casting "Biggest Casting Machine Ever Made" Spotted at Tesla Plant
According to the Tesla blog Tesmanian, Tesla worked on several significant manufacturing improvements for the Model Y production program. The result is a new casting machine that will produce most of the Model Y frame in one single casting.
Back in June, we reported that Tesla wanted to produce the Model Y rear underbody from a single cast. According to the Tesla blog Tesmanian, the car manufacturer has already published the patent "Multi-Directional Unibody Casting Machine for a Vehicle Frame and Associated Methods" for this purpose in summer 2019. On the blog page you can now see a picture of this machine in the Fremont factory. Tesla CEO Elon Musk expressed his anticipation on August 13, 2020 in a comment on Twitter: "Will be amazing to see it in operation! Biggest casting machine ever made. Will make rear body in a single piece, including crash rails." The same machine will be put into operation not only in Fremont, but in every Tesla factory.
What added value do the new machines offer? From the statement quoted on the blog, it is clear that the goal of the design is to reduce reduce build time, operation costs, costs of manufacturing, factory footprint, factory operating costs, tooling costs, and/or quantity of equipment. Consequently, in order to reduce the number of casting machines required to build a vehicle frame, the new casting machine should be able to build a complete frame by means of aluminum casting.
Musk is quoted on the blog as follows: "We're moving to an aluminum casting instead of a series of stamped pieces. We'll go from 70 parts to 4, then 1 with a reduction in weight, improvement in MBH, reduction in cost, and a significant drop in capital expenditure for all the robots that used to put 70 parts together. The blog entry further reveals that the benefits of this production method are not only the reduction in production costs, which should consequently also lower vehicle prices and accelerate Tesla's expansion to all automotive markets in the world. In addition to the increase in production speed and the improvement in quality, the user benefits from the weight reduction achieved by the production process. Thus the Tesla Model Y offers the following advantages:
- better battery economy
- better handling and driving comfort
- increased safety, as energy forces can be better absorbed in case of an accident
Despite potentially increased protection for the driver, Jörg Wellnitz, Chair of the Department of Lightweight Construction at Ingolstadt University of Technology, nevertheless sees a point of criticism in the production from a single casting. According to his quote on the German web portal Automobil Industrie, repair is impossible. In case of an accident, damaged body parts would have to be sawn out over large areas.