Elon Musk has noted that the Model Y’s casting machine is one of the biggest in the world, so much so that the equipment itself is “the size of a small house.” As noted in a piece from the recent issue of Automotive Engineering, it appears that Musk’s statement is actually very accurate. What’s more, the Model Y’s massive “Giga Press” casting machine could very well become the defining factor in helping Tesla achieve a production rate of 1 million vehicles per year.
The Tesla Model Y may be built on the Model 3 platform, but the vehicle is loaded with improvements and innovations from the ground up. During Sandy Munro’s extensive teardown of the vehicle, the automotive veteran noted that the Model Y featured some of the largest aluminum casts he has ever seen in a vehicle of its size. This was most represented by the Model Y’s two-piece rear underbody aluminum casting, which Elon Musk expects could be further reduced into just one piece.
At the center of this all is the Giga Press itself, the machine that is capable of actually making aluminum casts that are as big as Tesla requires. The machine is supplied by the IDRA Group, an Italian leader in HPDC equipment founded way back in 1946. So far, Tesla is the company’s first customer for the OL6100 CS, a mammoth casting machine that underwent some customization to handle the electric car maker’s casting needs.
True to Musk’s description, the machine itself is the size of a house, measuring 64 ft (19.5 m) long and 17 ft (5.3 m) tall. It’s also incredibly heavy at 410 tons. Interestingly enough, according to the automotive engineering publication, the Giga Press is intended to be installed in several key locations, such as the Fremont Factory and Gigafactory Shanghai.
Laurie Harbor, the president of Harbour Results Inc., a manufacturing consultancy firm, stated that the utilization of Giga Press for the Model Y production is certainly new, but it makes sense. This is particularly notable since Tesla and Elon Musk have both pressed the company’s engineers to be creative. This means that everything that can be done to increase efficiency, such as the use of massive casts, helps in making Model Y production better.
“Even with a big cycle time, you eliminate all the labor to assemble pieces and subcomponents. You’re saving on automation cells, you’re saving on people. It would be tough to put dollars to it, but think of multiple suppliers doing stampings. You could save maybe 20% on labor cost. And reduction in footprint is major. My guess is that it’s a net-net efficiency gain,” Harbor said.
Tesla estimates that the use of a single-piece casting design will deliver a 30% reduction in the size of the Model Y’s body shop. If successful, then the company could roll out these improvements to the other vehicles in Tesla’s lineup as well. For Munro, these strategies may be costly for now due to the initial investments involved, but they go a long way towards increasing Tesla’s production capability. This should help the company produce more vehicles than ever before, perhaps even reaching Musk’s vision of manufacturing about 1 million vehicles per year.