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Tesla Model 3: Tesla’s robot supplier vows to do everything it can to bring up production line on time

tesla fremont assembly line

Encouraged by the strong demand for reservations, Tesla is currently betting everything on its Model 3 vehicle program and even raising more money to plow into the effort. The automaker is aiming to bring the $35,000 all-electric sedan to production (July 2017) just 12 months after “pencil down” on the design.

In order to start manufacturing on time, Tesla is pushing its suppliers hard. Fanuc, Tesla’s main robot supplier, is among those suppliers and the company says that it is ready to do everything it can to bring up the production line on time.

Tesla received about 400,000 reservations with deposits for the Model 3. Beyond the ~$400 million in deposits being useful to finance the Model 3 assembly line, the reservations also serve as a clear show of demand for the vehicle which translates into credibility for Tesla when the automaker tries to convince its suppliers to invest in production capacity for the vehicle program.

At Electrek, we talked to suppliers buying new machinery to support part orders for the program and they mentioned being encouraged by the signs of demand.

Another supplier willing to invest into the program is Fanuc. We reported on the company back in July after our tour of the Tesla Gigafactory. The Japanese industrial robot maker supplied a lot of robots at the new factory, but also at Tesla’s Fremont factory.

For the Model 3 production line, Fanuc now says that it will add to its ~600 robots already in Fremont.

Rob Kuphal, director for sales at Fanuc America, told Bloomberg:

“My team and I will work as hard as we can to support an on-time Model 3 startup. It’s tight timing, but it’s attainable with a lot of work between now and then.”

As Tesla confirmed in its shareholders letter for the second quarter 2016 released last month, “some Model 3 production equipment is already on line, including initial capacity in stamping and paint centers”. The company also plans to start construction for a “new Model 3 body and general assembly centers” by the end of the year.

That’s when Fanuc’s new robots will likely come into play.

In the coming years, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that Tesla will significantly change the way manufacturing is done. In the past few months, he has often referred to as “the machine building the machine” as his new focus.

He compares Tesla’s future factory to an “alien dreadnought”, adding “the point at which that’s what the factory looks like, that’s when you know you’ve won.”

Though he emphasized that the production line of the Model 3 will only be version 0.5 of the “alien dreadnought”. He envisions a version 3 in a few more years:

“By version 3, it won’t look like anything else. You can’t have people in the production line itself, otherwise you drop to people speed. So there will be no people in production process itself. People will maintain the machines, upgrade them, and deal with anomalies.”

While we are still a few years away from that, according to Musk, the version 0.5 will be up and running for the Tesla Model 3 by the end of 2017.

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