GM snatches key Tesla gigacasting supplier TEI
For years, a little-known company called Tooling & Equipment International (TEI) has helped Tesla push back the frontiers of “gigacasting”, the process it pioneered to cast large body parts for cars in one piece to save time and money. Until 2023, that is. TEI is now part of General Motors after agreeing a deal that may have flown under the radar but is a key part of the U.S. automaker’s strategy to make up ground on Tesla, four people familiar with the transaction said.
By snapping up a specialist in sand casting techniques that accelerated the development of Tesla’s gigacasting molds and allowed it to cast more complex components, GM has jump-started its own push to make cars more cheaply and efficiently at a time when Tesla is racing to roll out a $25,000 EV, the people said.
With TEI gone, Tesla is leaning more heavily on three other casting specialists it has used in Britain, Germany and Japan to develop the huge molds needed for the millions of cheaper EVs it plans to make in the coming decade, the four people said.
Toyota takes on Tesla’s gigacasting in battle for carmaking’s future
Some car executives and analysts expect Tesla’s process — which Musk calls “gigacasting” — to set a new benchmark for building vehicles, replacing the vaunted Toyota Production System based on just-in-time manufacturing efficiency. The way Tesla is making cars “is quickly moving to become an industry standard”, said one senior executive at a European automaker.
For the moment, Toyota says it wants more than half of its 2030 sales target to be made up of EVs using its new modular architecture, which allows it to produce multiple different models, that share key components, on the same platforms. Yuzawa said: “Gigacasting is going to reshape the whole underbody supply chain network.”
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Gigacasting: The hottest trend in car manufacturing
Gigacasting is all the rage in automotive manufacturing circles. And while Tesla has mainstreamed the term — involving enormous, high-pressure aluminum die casting machines that punch out vehicle chassis and bodies-in-white — the technology has largely caught on in mainland China. Now other automakers, including Toyota, are eyeing the process.
These massive gigacastings (also known as megacastings) carry huge initial startup costs, may have distortion issues in the metal, alter collision-repair capabilities, and require extensive end-of-line inspection scanning. And that is only after ordering a custom-built gargantuan piece of equipment, moving it into place, and figuring out how to efficiently work the temperamental processes. The cost-benefit analysis of gigacasting should be based on achieving a good-enough first-pass yield rate and maintaining a sufficient, yet not excessive, number of orders for the same part. When comparing gigacasting to conventional steel stamping or aluminum-stitching, S&P Global Mobility nonetheless assesses the unit price for a single-piece, gigacasted aluminum rear floor to be valid.
OEMs are looking towards gigacasting not as a component piece, but as a change to how their entire world functions. The reconfiguration of the dance played behind factory walls will forever change economies within automotive. Whether corner castings or single piece, whether gigacast or gigapress, a change to how vehicles come together is upon the industry. Nodal construction will replace linear, bottlenecks will arise and dissolve, and something altogether new will be born.