Ford, Hyundai test Tesla supplier’s Giga Press

Tesla has pioneered the use of massive casting machines to make large single pieces of vehicle underbodies.

Idra, the Italian aluminium casting machine manufacturer and Tesla supplier, has added Ford, Hyundai and another European company to its customer base as more automakers explore this manufacturing technique.

Tesla has pioneered the use of massive casting machines, also known as ‘Giga Presses,’ to make large single pieces of vehicle underbodies, streamline production and reduce the work even of robots.

Front and rear underbodies cast by giga presses are combined with battery packs to form a three-piece chassis for battery electric vehicles.

A ‘Giga Press 6 100’ which produces a clamping force of over 6 000 tons, with the Ford brand printed on it, had been assembled and was being tested in Idra’s plant in Travalgiato, near Brescia, northern Italy during an industry event organised by the company.

The machine will be installed in an R&D facility in the Detroit, USA and used for testing and benchmarking ahead of introducing the presses for production vehicles.

An even bigger press, the 9 000 ton, is Idra’s largest and newest model and is the size of a small house or a tennis court, was being tested nearby but without the client’s name printed on it. A source close to the matter, however, said it would be shipped to Hyundai, adding that it would also initially be used only for R&D purposes.

The source said Idra was also about to sign a supply contract for two 9 000 presses with a premium automaker in Europe, its first with a European group. Sources said Volvo has purchased two Idra Giga Presses for their new plant in eastern Europe.

Six Giga Presses are now emerging as the standard for an annual production of 500,000 vehicles, the source added.

Idra has already shipped 14 presses to Tesla, including two 9 000 ton machines for Tesla’s large Cybertruck production at its Austin plant, Texas, according to sources and posts by Tesla on social media.

Idra has so far signed orders for 25 presses, with 21 already produced and shipped, including to leading Tier 1 parts makers.

What is a Giga Press?
The term Giga Press was coined by Idra CEO Riccardo Ferrario for the first order of an OL 5500 CS HPDC machine in May 2019, the Italian company said in a release announcing that the term had been added to online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

A Giga Press is a series of high-pressure aluminium die casting machines. Molten aluminium weighing more than 100kg is injected into the cold-chamber casting mould with a velocity of 10 meters per second. The cycle time is about 120 seconds, resulting in 30 completed castings an hour. About 500 castings can be produced each day using three 8-hour shifts.

The maximum width of a casting is 2.2m. The castings are currently used for front and rear underbodies, but Idra is working to add castings of battery cases and central platforms that incorporate battery cases. Idra’s Giga Press ranges in size from 19.7m x 7m x 6m to 22m x 8m x 6.5m and have a clamping force ranging from 5 500 to 9 000 metric tons.