Tesla's groundbreaking Gigacasting 2.0 transforms car production
Tesla is on the verge of achieving a technological breakthrough that could revolutionize the production of electric vehicles and help Elon Musk achieve his goal of reducing production costs. The company has already pioneered the use of massive presses to mold the front and rear structures of its Model Y, a process known as "gigacasting." Now, Tesla is working on an innovation that would allow for the die casting of nearly all the complex underbody of an electric vehicle in one piece, rather than using hundreds of parts. This new manufacturing strategy is a key part of Musk's plan to produce affordable EVs in large quantities.
If Tesla succeeds in gigacasting most of the underbody, it would have a significant impact on the automotive industry. Terry Woychowski, president of engineering company Caresoft Global, described it as an "enabler on steroids" that would disrupt the way cars are designed and manufactured. The sources also revealed that Tesla's new design and manufacturing techniques could enable the company to develop a car from scratch in just 18 to 24 months, compared to the three to four years it takes most competitors.
Tesla is considering using a single large frame for its upcoming small EV, which is planned to be priced at $25,000. This frame would combine the front and rear sections with the middle underbody that houses the battery. The decision to die cast the platform in one piece is expected to be made soon, although the design may still undergo changes. The sources did not receive a response from Tesla or Musk when asked for comment.
The breakthrough achieved by Tesla revolves around the design and testing of large molds for mass production, as well as the use of 3D printing and industrial sand in the casting process. Automakers have been hesitant to cast larger structures due to the high costs and risks involved. However, Tesla has overcome these obstacles by collaborating with design and casting specialists who use 3D printers to create molds out of industrial sand. This allows for more flexibility in the design process and significantly reduces costs compared to using metal prototypes.
In addition to the challenges of mold design, Tesla also had to address the issue of aluminum alloys behaving differently in sand and metal molds. The casting specialists were able to formulate special alloys and fine-tune the cooling process to meet Tesla's criteria for crashworthiness. Once the prototype mold is approved, Tesla can invest in a final metal mold for mass production.
The upcoming small cars from Tesla, designed for personal use and as robotaxis, have a simpler underbody design that makes them ideal candidates for casting in one piece. The lack of a large front and rear overhang allows for a more straightforward structure. However, Tesla still needs to decide on the type of gigapress to use, which will determine the complexity of the car frame. To produce such large body parts quickly, Tesla will need new, larger gigapresses with clamping power of 16,000 tons or more. These presses may require larger factory buildings and a different approach to accommodate the 3D printed sand cores.
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