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Why are other automakers chasing Tesla’s ‘Gigacasting’?

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Toyota Motor Corp. has announced that it will adopt a technology pioneered by Tesla known as “Gigacasting,” as part of the Japanese automaker’s strategy to improve the performance and reduce the cost of future electric vehicles (EVs). bottom.

Toyota isn’t the only company chasing Tesla’s rise.

Here’s a look at Gigacasting and how this innovation is helping automakers struggle to compete with Tesla.

What is Gigacasting?

The Gigapress is an aluminum die-casting machine used by Tesla at its factories in the United States, China, and Germany. Household-sized machines can produce aluminum parts much larger than those previously used in automobile manufacturing.

The “Giga” in the name comes from Tesla’s practice of calling its factories “Gigafactories.” Other automakers prefer to call these “mega presses.” This can also refer to a small but huge machine.

In operation, the press draws over 80 kilograms (176 pounds) of molten aluminum into a mold where it forms a part, demolds and cools rapidly.

Tesla has developed an aluminum alloy that eliminates the heat treatment traditionally used to increase the strength of cast parts.

What is the return?

More than 100 individually stamped metal parts are typically welded together to form the car body.

Analysts say fewer parts, lower costs and a simpler production line help Tesla to be among the industry’s most profitable per vehicle.

For Tesla, using a single component in the back of its best-selling Model Y has cut associated costs by 40 percent, the company says.

With the Model 3, using a single piece for the front and rear of the vehicle allowed Tesla to remove 600 robots from the assembly, said Elon Musk.

It also reduces the weight of the vehicle. This is an important consideration for EVs, whose battery pack alone weighs over 1,500 pounds. And it has the potential to reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions from factories.

Toyota said it hopes the use of aluminum die-casting will eliminate dozens of sheet metal parts required for assembly and reduce waste.

Who makes these machines?

Since 2008, Tesla has sourced its presses from Italy-based IDRA, a division of China’s LK Industries.

IDRA and LK’s competitors include Europe’s Buhler Group, Japan’s Ube Industries and Shibaura Machinery, and China’s Yizumi and Haitian.

The global aluminum die casting market was worth about $73 billion last year and is projected to exceed $126 billion by 2032, according to AlixPartners analysis.

who’s chasing

In addition to Toyota, General Motors, Hyundai and Chinese Geely affiliates Volvo Cars, Polestar and Sieker are using or planning to use the technology.

Zeekr said it has started using giant aluminum die-casts in the utility vans it makes for sale in China, and will introduce the technology to other models as well.

Volvo last year announced it would invest more than $900 million to revamp its factory near Gothenburg, Sweden, to install MegaPress technology.

What is the problem?

The cost is one.

Tesla records the majority of its sales with just two models, the Model 3 and Model Y. High sales volumes on just two platforms make it easier to justify investments in new production technologies. Other EV startups have similar advantages.

Analysts say the decision to invest tens of millions of dollars in new casting technology could be more difficult for traditional automakers with more complex product lines and already written-off factory machinery.

Cars with integrally cast body parts can be difficult and expensive to repair after an accident. This can increase the operating costs of EVs.

Insurance companies already book insurance claims for damaged batteries in Teslas and other low-mileage EVs, as there is often no way to repair even a slightly damaged battery pack. .

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