New York Times on Giga Berlin

In today's email from Munro Associates they link to a short NYT article that includes some quotes from Sandy. Glad to see the NYT is waking up! Here is the short article: Move Aside Robots, Tesla Bets on Aluminium Casting
By Reuters
Sept. 8, 2020

FRANKFURT/DETROIT — Robots are not efficient enough for Tesla's new car factory in Germany, which plans to replace hundreds of them with giant aluminium casting machines to build simpler chassis parts, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The electric carmaker has struggled to raise production volumes through hi-tech automation and was forced to fly in a new production line from Germany to Nevada in 2018 after robots failed to coordinate seamlessly at the U.S. factory.

For the new Model Y, Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has said he will replace 70 components glued and riveted into the car's rear underbody with a single module made using an aluminium casting machine.

That's just the start of a new automation drive, with the vehicle's front module and other parts to come, the source said.

"Will be amazing to see it in operation! Biggest casting machine ever made. Will make rear body in a single piece, including crash rails," Musk said on Twitter on Aug. 13. He did not say where or when the new machine would be rolled out.

Tesla did not respond to requests for comment.

Tesmanian, a blog specialising in Tesla news, said on Monday the company's new plant in Brandenburg, near Berlin, would be supplied with eight "Gigapress" machines.

Car bodies have traditionally been made by assembling multiple stamped metal panels, which has helped carmakers to design crumple zones to absorb energy during a crash, but Musk is charting a new course at the Brandenburg plant.

"He wants the car's body to be made from modules, as few of them as possible," the source explained. "He sees casting as the new way forward. Like casting a toy car out of metal."

The Gigapress, which is the size of a small house, will be supplied by Italy's IDRA Srl, and forms a key part of Musk's drive to reinvent "the machine that builds the machine," the source added.

IDRA declined to comment. IDRA has previously said it has supplied its first ever Gigapress to a North American auto manufacturer, without naming it.

Musk's push to reduce manufacturing complexity comes as German carmakers BMW, Mercedes and Audi face pressure from their workers to preserve domestic assembly jobs which are under threat as regulators push electric cars that have fewer components than combustion-engined ones.

Aluminium has proven cumbersome to use in large components because it is difficult to stamp into complex shapes. To get intricate ridges and other shapes, aluminium pieces have needed to be glued or riveted, since welding deforms the metal.

Injecting molten aluminium into a cast and having robots pull out the moulded metal allows Tesla to combine several manufacturing steps.

Sandy Munro, chief executive officer of manufacturing consulting firm Munro & Associates and a previous critic of some of Tesla's manufacturing processes, lauded its improvements.

"We were very critical of Tesla when we first started on their vehicles. The gaps were horrific, the weld spatter was everywhere. Nothing fit," Munro said during a recent presentation with consultants Frost & Sullivan. But the switch from the Model 3 to a larger vehicle, the Model Y, resulted in a step change in manufacturing improvements, he said.

Tesla has already reduced the rear underbody to two parts, forming the largest piece of aluminium that Munro has seen in 30 years of analysing components. "This is the biggest casting we have seen in a car company. This is just spectacular," he said.


  • Thanks for the article, I love Sandy Munro who is an expert who everyone needs to pay attention to. His take on Tesla M3 and MY is invigorating and spot on in noting how far ahead Tesla is and how they keep innovating and how many of his suggested changes to M3 were subsequently acted on. He is a treasure and I always pay attention to his podcasts.
  • One thing that sounds like it needs clarification, the current two piece casting will be replaced by a one piece casting. These castings are considered underbody or structural components.

    The outer bodies will still be made by assembling multiple stamped metal panels.
  • Hats off to Tesla continuing to continually innovate!

    It's also nice to see some well deserved recognition from conventional auto industry stalwarts.
  • I’ve enjoyed watching his videos. He has gone from a strong Tesla critic(well deserved) to a enthusiastic Tesla supporter. He is like a giggly little kid, he gets all excited when he witnesses the huge improvements that Tesla is making and is amazed at the speed at which they do it. He’s funny when he picks up a piece and admits that he has never seen anything like it and admits has no idea how how it works(meaning that is how far advanced it is).
    Both he and his team say that Tesla is years ahead of anyone else.
    Cathy Woods and her team are equally amazed.
    I’m enjoying witnessing it all.
  • @David N - Ditto.
    The fact that Sandy M. was a critic, based in FACT, and then has become a fan of Tesla speaks volumes (to me) about his credibility. It also show clearly the pace of innovation as Tesla. Sandy's no nonsense, honest approach, is one of the reasons I have become so bullish on Tesla/TSLA. That type of critical, honest, deeply knowledgeable, critique is hard to come by.
  • My question about this one piece or even the present two piece casting is how do you repair it. These castings include the crumple zone. So just how does your local repair shop repair a cast part, making it as strong as the original part? You throw a rod in an ICE, punching a hole in the block (cast part), you replace the engine. I have never heard of anyone repairing an engine block. So as I asked, just how does Tesla expect a repair shop to repair a damaged part of a single casting that literally makes up 1/3 of the car?
  • JordanRichard - Good question, and the kind of question Sandy Munro asks and answers all the time. Maybe he has covered it in a video. If not, i am sure he will in a future video!
  • @jordanrichard

    I would think that if the castings were damaged, odds are that the car would be considered totaled. Still, I'll hazard a best guess on the repairs:

    Remove the rear drive unit.
    Remove the traction battery.
    Unbolt and remove the casting(s).
    Repair or replace any remaining damaged parts.
    Bolt in new casting(s).
    Reinstall the battery.
    Reinstall the drive unit.

    Of course, any wiring, brake lines, etc. that was in the way would also have to be removed and/or replaced.

    I wouldn't want to see a quote for that amount of work.
  • Good to see Tesla keeping up with auto mfg. tech. While Teslerati are amazed use of castings was pioneered and used by current mfgs long before Tesla and more extensively, so far, than Tesla.
    Traditional OEM have been making cars for 50-100 years. I would hope they got their act together concerning production. Tesla has been making cars for 8 years, hardly a fair comparison. OEM’s should be light years ahead of Tesla. In reality, in a few years, some of the so called car companies that “ pioneered” production techniques may very well be pioneers on how to let competition pass them by.
    Forget who “pioneered” anything, I bet the auto manufacturing landscape will look very differant by 2030.
  • > @"David N" said:

    > Traditional OEM have been making cars for 50-100 years. I would hope they got their act together concerning production.

    Which is why Teslerati being amazed by mfg techniques long in use by car mfgs is amusing.
  • > @FISHEV said:
    > Which is why Teslerati being amazed by mfg techniques long in use by car mfgs is amusing.

    Do enlighten us as to how traditional car manufacturers have “long” been casting the entire rear portion of their cars in a single piece, using equipment that is only first appearing in Giga Berlin this year. Right next to their octovalves, I imagine.
  • TobascoGuy, literally the rear 1/3 of the Model Y's structure will be one piece. So you get rear ended enough to crunch/push the bumper in, you are suggesting that they strip 1/3 of the car done to the casting structure and replace it, just for a collapsed bumper?
    Remember, Elon said the "crumple zone" which is where the bumper is attached to, will be built into the casting.

    I have watched all of Munro's videos on the Y and he never brought up the repair aspect of it. He praised the out of the box manufacturing method, but completely skipped over talking about repair.
  • @jordanrichardad, I didn't say that. I said "if the castings were damaged", this is what the steps may be.

    I would think if the bumper was collapsed and the casting was not damaged, just the damaged portion could be replaced.
  • @jordanrichard_629778

    When a car's frame gets bent, the shop uses a frame bender to straighten the frame. The entire frame doesn't get replaced.

    Same with the cast aluminum. Just because it was cast doesn't mean that it cannot be repaired using traditional aluminum repair methods.

    The idea that you'd have to remove the cast rear doesn't make logical or manufacturing/repair sense.
  • > @Xerogas said:

    > Do enlighten us as to how traditional car manufacturers have “long” been casting the entire rear portion of their cars in a single piece, using equipment that is only first appearing in Giga Berlin this year.

    Do read up on the use of castings in auto mfg.

    "he automotive industry relies on die casting for a variety of applications. Most automobiles have many metal parts that must be cast into specific shapes. Die casting is the perfect method for making these parts. When choosing a metal for the casting process, aluminum or magnesium are often obvious choices. These metals are very lightweight, making them ideal in the automotive industry."
  • Additive manufacturing may kill the casting star.
  • Soon there will be no such thing as assembling a frame.
  • > @TabascoGuy said:

    > Try reading what @Xerogas actually said dumbass.

    I would not call @Xerogas a "dumbass" simply because he did not know that auto industry has been using castings forever. That Tesla is doing it now and they think Tesla invented it or is doing something "special" is amusing but not factual.

    Sorry Tesla.
  • Yes, "castings" have been used in the auto industry for decades (typically for various parts and components) even, to a certain extent, for some chassis assemblies (ever hear of "unibody"?).

    However, no one has ever 'cast' an entire chassis/frame as a single unit before...that's interesting and should improve the overall structural integrity of vehicle architecture.
  • @FishEV

    No one is calling @Xerogas a "dumbass" you dumbass. Is that better?

    Please read @blue's clear explanation of the difference between what has been done with castings in the past and what Tesla is doing differently now. Try to keep up with the conversation for once. Put on your thinking cap and turn the voltage up a tad.

    Oh, and please try to not twist anyone else's words around to mean the exact opposite of what was said. Your posts do enough twisting all on their own.
  • edited September 17
    > @TabascoGuy said: > No one is calling @Xerogas a "dumbass""

    Well @"blue adept" did saying anyone who didn't know that castings have been used in car mfg for decades was a dumbass and @Xerogas and other Phanbois didn't realize castings have been in use for a long time.

    That it is German equipment is because German car mfgs likely have lead the way so if you want to buy casting equipment for auto mfg. you buy it in Germany.
  • Thanks for caring enough to not comprehend anyone's posting.
  • Theres nothing to comprehend when his existence essentially depends on him not understanding or comprehending anything properly.
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