Originally published on CleanTechnica.
If you thought a company that plans to start mass producing a new electric car on July 1 would have its factory finished already, think again. According to Teslarati, a person claiming to be a field service engineer for Kuka Robotics has taken several photos of 467 new robots that have been delivered to the factory recently and are awaiting installation. The photos were posted on the Southeast Traders forum by a person with the username Mac11FA, who says he will be onsite for the next 7 weeks to help get the robots mounted and operating properly.
Kuka Robotics is located in Augsburg, Germany, and its robots can cost from as little as $50,000 to as much as $500,000 a piece. Each is capable of performing multiple tasks involving movements along multiple axes using a variety of tools and adapters. They can perform such tasks as spot welding and laser welding, as well as handling of materials. Larger robots are often used to move large components between sub-assembly lines. The total cost of the Kuka robots Tesla ordered for its Model 3 production line is rumored to be around $50 million.
Tesla owners who have toured the factory recently were asked not to take photos inside, but one person, who uses the name Engle on the Tesla Motors Club forum, posted this comment: “You can’t take photographs, but I can tell everyone that there is an enormous area of the factory where the Model 3 assembly line is being built. There are Kuka robots all over the place waiting to be installed. It’s a beautiful thing. One of the guys that works there said there’s so much activity going on, that he and a friend challenge each other each morning to see if they can figure out what’s new that day.”
Elon Musk teased his audience during the Q3 earnings call last September when he said the Model 3 assembly line would resemble an “alien dreadnaught” when it is completed. Musk is convinced he can disrupt the entire manufacturing sector by building better factories that operate up to 10 times faster than the conventional factories in use today. He calls his plan to reinvent manufacturing “making the machine that makes the machine.”
Many industry experts say Tesla is taking a huge risk by going straight to production with an assembly line that has not been fully calibrated and tested. Musk announced last month that there will be no “beta” versions of the Model 3. Those are the early production cars that are manufactured in small quantities for testing purposes before regular production begins. Every other automaker in the world uses “beta” testing programs.
But Tesla is not every other company. It says the first cars off the line will be delivered to employees, people who can drive them home, discover any defects that need addressing, and bring them back the next day for adjustments. Apparently, Tesla workers are more than happy to serve as guinea pigs.
A near production version of a Model 3 was spotted recently near the factory. Compared to other “early release candidates,” it looks completely dialed in and ready for delivery to a paying customer. Musk’s production timeline is daring and bold. Nothing like this has ever been tried before. None of which is causing Musk to lose any sleep. He is supremely confident of his own abilities and those of the people who work for him. Judging by the astronomical price of Tesla shares at the moment, plenty of people agree with him.