Tesla is making a breakthrough in one-piece car casting, the report says
Tesla has made significant progress in making Hot Wheels-like one-piece car casting a reality, according to a new insider report.
In recent years, Tesla has invested heavily in mass casting technology to produce vehicle bodies in just a few large parts rather than hundreds.
The automaker now operates several of the world’s largest casting machines, which it often refers to as the “Gigapress.”
CEO Elon Musk has often pointed out how he was inspired by Hot Wheels toy cars that are built in one piece and has hinted that he would like Tesla cars to eventually be built that way.
However, Tesla has already pushed the boundaries of casting technology to be able to produce the Model Y’s rear and front castings and has a new 9,000-ton press made to produce Cybertruck parts.
But now a new report claims that Tesla has made “a series of innovations to achieve a technological breakthrough” in order to “cast almost all of the complex underbelly of an electric car into one piece.”
The report comes from Reuters based on “five people familiar with the move”:
One large frame — combining the front and rear sections with the lower middle section where the battery is located — could be used in a small electric car Tesla aims to launch at $25,000 by the middle of the decade, the five people said.
However, the report claims that Tesla has not yet decided to use the new technology for its next-generation vehicle, but it could make a decision as soon as this month.
Reuters claims that one innovation involves using 3D printing and artificial sand to create casting molds, which could reduce the cost and time it takes to make inevitable adjustments to the molds:
To overcome the obstacles, Tesla turned to companies that make test molds from artificial sand using 3D printers. Using a digital design file, printers known as bonding jets deposit a liquid bonding agent onto a thin layer of sand and gradually build a mold, layer by layer, that can pour the molten alloy.
The report states that Tesla is using Desktop Metall’s ExOne device.
Another innovation is through materials science. The report notes that Tesla has had issues with having an alloy work with the 3D printing process for the mold and the performance and safety requirements of the car, but the company has made progress:
Three of the sources said that casting specialists overcame this by manufacturing special alloys, controlling the cooling process of the molten alloys, and achieving post-production heat treatment. Once Tesla is satisfied with the initial mold, it can then invest in a final metal mold for mass production.
Tesla has a strong materials science team that it shares with SpaceX, and has already designed many of the new alloys used by both companies.
Finally, the report also notes that Tesla has not finalized its plans for a new, larger Gigapress needed to build those large individual objects.
Tesla fans love to criticize Reuters for publishing misleading negative reports about Tesla, and there is certainly validity to the criticism, as we highlighted in a recent report.
However, in this case, Reuters published a very detailed report that makes sense based on Tesla’s plans.
We know that Tesla has been working on such technology since before the Model Y came to market, and Elon Musk briefly pushed for more innovation in the electric crossover platform before backing off a bit in favor of getting it to market faster.
Tesla received an interesting patent for this technology in 2019.
I still think this should be taken with a grain of salt, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out to be true.
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