How Electromagnetic Pumps Increase Giga Press Efficiency & Reduce Waste
If you work in the automotive manufacturing industry, you’ve likely heard the hype building around Giga Presses: house-sized, high-pressure, aluminum die casting machines capable of replacing dozens of welded parts with a single one.
While still relatively new, Giga Presses (also written as “gigapresses” and sometimes referred to as a “megapresses”) and the process of “gigacasting” are taking off – especially in the electric vehicle manufacturing space.
With gigacasting seemingly here to stay, here’s a quick overview of the burgeoning process – and an introduction to how electromagnetic (EM) pumps can be used to make gigacasting even more efficient.
Gigacasting was first pioneered by Tesla back in 2020, when the company operationalized its first Giga Press. Tesla’s inaugural Giga Press, manufactured by Italian die casting machine maker, IDRA Group, helped the company not only revolutionize its own assembly line, but also introduce a wholly new (and potentially less expensive) way to manufacture vehicles.
Other prominent automotive manufacturers have taken note; adoption of the process is expected to skyrocket in the coming years. IDRA’s general manager, Riccardo Ferrario, even predicted that, by 2035, “80% of automakers will use Giga Presses… at least for BEV cars.”
Whether Ferrario’s prediction comes to pass is yet to be seen. What is apparent, though, is that several manufacturers are scrambling to get a piece of the gigacasting pie.
Auto manufacturers including Toyota, GM, Hyundai, Volvo and Polestar, are either actively investing in or have announced plans to invest in gigacasting technology in the near future. Several casting machine manufacturers have built or are building their own Giga Presses to meet demand.
How Gigacasting Works
Much like the name implies—“giga” comes from the Greek word for “giant”—Giga Presses are massive die casting machines (the largest in the world, in fact).
While specifics vary by press, the Giga Presses used by Tesla weigh thousands of tons and have clamping forces in the tens of thousands of kilonewtons. The impressive size of the presses allows them to cast parts that are significantly larger than those produced by any other die casting machine – think: the entire undercarriage of a vehicle.
While Giga Presses – and the parts they create – are far larger than traditional die casting machines, they are operationally quite similar. Metal is heated, pressed or injected into the mold, left to solidify, and, finally, expelled.
The Benefits of Gigacasting
Gigacasting allows automotive manufacturers to replace tens of smaller parts, patchworked together to build a vehicle, with a handful of larger ones. By reducing both the parts needed to manufacture a vehicle and the steps and labor required to produce each part, gigacasting has proven to be a highly efficient and cost-effective process.
At Tesla, the introduction of the Giga Press dramatically streamlined operations. Prior to using gigacasting, each of Tesla’s Model Y vehicles was comprised of dozens of casted parts. Now that a Giga Press is used, they are made from just a couple of castings.
Because the cars are now made from significantly fewer parts, less automated labor, overall, is needed. Tesla founder Elon Musk confirmed that the introduction of the Giga Press allowed the company to cut 600 robots from the Model 3’s assembly line.
In addition to streamlining production, the IDRA Giga Presses used at Tesla have an impressive output: machines are capable of producing 40 to 45 castings per hour. The result? Tesla claims it can now produce a Model Y in just 10 hours.
The hyper-efficiency of gigacasting and its ability to simplify the production line have allowed Tesla to reduce manufacturing expenses. The company was allegedly able to cut some manufacturing costs of the Model Y by 40%.
And, while cost reduction is a goal for many car makers, the deep manufacturing budget cuts made possible by gigacasting are especially appealing to EV manufacturers. Because EV batteries are so expensive to produce, the vehicles are generally not as profitable as gas powered ones. Gigacasting may help reverse that trend.
How EM Pumps Can Increase Gigacasting Efficiency
It could be argued that gigacasting is the future of automotive manufacturing. But, while the technology is extraordinarily advanced, vestiges of traditional casting remain when it comes to filling casts with molten metal.
IDRA Giga Presses use robotic plungers to inject molten metal into molds, but some other, less advanced presses use robotic ladling. When metal is ladled – robotically or not – into a mold, turbulent flow is created. When the movement of molten metal is turbulent, the cast becomes vulnerable to a host of issues, including bubbles, oxides, porosity, and other defects.
Electromagnetic (EM) pumps are fully enclosed systems installed inside furnaces that use magnetism – not moving parts – to move metal. The pumps can be used in lieu of ladling to greatly reduce the risk of turbulence. In gigacasting applications, EM pumps sit inside the furnace next to the shot sleeve. When the cast is ready to receive metal, the pump fills the shot sleeve, and the robotic plunger carefully fills the mold.
Beyond reducing turbulence, EM pumps pull metal from deep within a furnace to improve the overall quality and finish of metal – which is critically important when it comes to gigacasting. Because gigacasting produces fewer overall parts by design, the margin of error is extremely low: it’s much more difficult and costly to scrap or remelt one of only two or three large components than one of dozens of smaller parts.
EM pumps are also extremely accurate and reduce the risk of both under- and over-filling molds: the pumps dynamically assess and can adjust the velocity of molten metal every 10 milliseconds.
On a more logistical level, EM pumps are extremely well suited to work in Giga Presses. While EM pumps work in a variety of furnaces sizes and with various volumes of metal, they excel at pumping heavy weights of metal in large furnaces.
Your Partner in Casting Innovation
Speak with a CMI Novacast factory expert about how electromagnetic pumps can help take your gigacasting project to the next level.