Last Saturday, Tesla gave hundreds or even thousands of curious people deep insights into its emerging gigafactory in Grünheide near Berlin. Up to 9,000 visitors were allowed to attend the festival at the same time, with which the company wanted to thank the supporters in the region, as CEO Elon Musk explained on the stage in the evening. A small fairground with Model Y test drives was set up to the south in front of the long main building, and anyone who wanted was allowed to explore the inside of the factory via a route provided with partition walls.
Tesla robots in show use
It was possible to roughly track which route materials and supplied components take through the Gigafactory and how they become a Model Y piece by piece. Tesla employees, most of them male and German-speaking, stood at many stations and willingly provided information about what was happening. The statements on the status of the expansion and on the question of whether complete Model Ys were already being produced in the factory varied, however. Many robots and other systems were running, but only for the show. A row of yellow and red machine arms in the body shell, for example, performed the programmed movements, but without any parts in the grippers or suction cups.
The first Giga press that you encountered on the way through the factory is not at all: the house-high and wide machine at the northern end looks a lot like it and it also presses, but in fact it is a press line , which brings the supplied metal sheets into shape using high pressure, for example for the Frunk hood of Model Y. Elements like these are then used to complete a long assembly line with a lot of manual work to create the raw body, including the doors. The cycle is 45 seconds, a Tesla employee who works on this tape proudly explained, as he said. Without any downtime, this results in a capacity of a good 700,000 electric cars per year. The official target is initially 500,000 Model Y. CEO Musk said in the evening that production of more than 5000 is planned by the end of 2022 and hopefully closer to 10,000 per week.
Before the belt begins, the previously pressed, welded or screwed parts are already connected to the majority of the load-bearing frame for the Model Y. Components for this come from the central western area of the main building. This is where the so-called Giga presses from Tesla and its Italian manufacturer Idra Systems are located: huge die-casting machines that cast melted bars from a special aluminum alloy into components with the desired shape. Two of a total of eight planned Giga presses looked fully installed on Saturday, another one was still missing the chimney for the smelting furnace in front of it.
German Model Y conventionally for the time being
With the Model Y from Germany, Tesla wants to produce the front part of the frame in one piece using a giant press for the first time. It should be completed by the battery element, which with Tesla’s own 4680 cells inside forms part of the load-bearing structure. For the time being, however, the German Model Ys such as those from Fremont in California and China will also have the conventional design without front molding and structural 4680 cells, as CEO Musk confirmed at his appearance at the Giga-Fest. At another station, Tesla presented both variants of the floor pan with batteries cut open next to each other.
Regardless of the carrier structure used, the entire raw Tesla is painted after completion on the assembly line and without batteries. In the first step after the pre-treatment, each vehicle is rotated once through a huge immersion bath for the purpose of corrosion protection, as was unfortunately only shown in a video. CEO Musk has already shown several times full of anticipation for the several layers of varnish that follow, because they are supposed to enable breathtaking new effects. He repeated this at the Giga-Fest, at the edge of which it was learned that there will be two other new colors for the German Tesla Model Y in addition to the deep red mentioned by Musk.
Gigafactory staff want to get started
After the paint job, they get married. In the case of Tesla, the so-called wedding in car production involves the chassis, including the battery pack and drive units, as well as the body including the frame structure underneath. Everything else follows in the final assembly. According to a poster in this area, that means 289 substations “to bring Model Y to life in the end”. According to an employee there, the seats are assembled from supplied parts. And maybe some reassuring news for those interested in large children: A sign saying “third row of seats” could also be seen in this area.
Right at the first bodywork station, a Tesla employee said that everyone had volunteered for the Saturday explainer assignment in the factory. In fact, many of his colleagues were proud of the modern Gigafactory, which, according to its CEO Musk, will deliver the first Model Y this December. Actually, you could get started right away when the final approval for the project was finally in place, was heard several times. On the Friday before the festival, Tesla is said to have received another advance approval that allows the construction of “the first 250 complete bodies”.