The Car-Building Process May Soon Be Upended

Tesla is mulling a 3D-printing move that could decrease production costs big time
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 15, 2023 7:27 AM CDT
The Car-Building Process May Soon Be Upended
A sign bearing the company logo outside a Tesla store in Denver is seen here on Feb. 9, 2019.   (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

Tesla is working behind the curtain on a new manufacturing process that the Verge notes could prove to be a "huge industrial breakthrough." Multiple sources tell Reuters that the EV company is playing around with a new process that would allow it to die-cast pretty much the entire underbody of one of its vehicles in one large piece, instead of piecing the car together using the 400 or so different parts typically involved in building a vehicle. Such an innovation would boost production and save Tesla big bucks—Reuters notes that it would help CEO Elon Musk reach his goal of "halving production costs."

Two sources estimate that using this process, which involves 3D printing and building layers using industrial sand, would allow Tesla to build a car from scratch in 18 months to two years, instead of the usual three to four years. "It is an enabler on steroids," says Terry Woychowski of the Caresoft Global engineering company. "It has a huge implication for the industry." Woychowski, who worked for General Motors for more than 30 years, warned, however, that this "gigacasting" technique isn't a simple one, especially for some of the larger, more complex pieces. Plus, the giant presses needed to pull off this task would come with a steep price tag and may necessitate bigger factories to house them.

Still, the design validation process with sand casting would cost a fraction of the same process using a typical metal prototype, and the sand-cast prototypes could be tweaked and reprinted in just hours. Quartz notes that Musk has long been enamored with "unboxed" production, which involves "making large sub-units of a car and then snapping the modules together." A decision by Tesla on whether or not to put this 3D-printing process into play for building the underbody may come by the end of September, sources tell Reuters. (More Tesla stories.)

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