How Automation Integration Makes the Difference for Electric Vehicle Companies
At +Vantage Corporation, we make it our priority to stay on the cutting edge of manufacturing technology, and to support those at the forefront of their industry through our expertise. As the world goes green, and consumers become increasingly aware of the dangers fossil fuels pose, the consumer demand for electric vehicles has skyrocketed, as has their market share.
To keep up with this exponential demand for products, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have been exploring increasingly automated solutions for the electric vehicle manufacturing process. The secret to automation success lies in a strong knowledge base, and +Vantage wants to demonstrate how our expertise can make the difference towards an efficient future for electrical vehicle production.
A Growing Market
Tesla emerged into the EV market in 2003, but it wasn’t until they introduced their mass production Model 3 in 2017 that the market for electric vehicles exploded. Since then, the industry has seen a meteoric rise, growing 67% from 2019 to 2020, and with even greater growth projected into the coming years.
Now in 2021, legacy automakers like Chevy, Ford, Toyota, and others are joining the EV game, along with newcomers like Rivian and Lucid Motors. In a crowded field, success or failure will hinge on these companies meeting the unique challenges of EV manufacturing. To understand how this will play out, we first must understand why building a commercially viable electric vehicle is so difficult.
As any production engineer can attest to, spooling up a new production line is never simple, especially when your goal is to maximize automation. Tesla learned this firsthand when they attempted to construct Elon Musk’s “Alien Dreadnought”, a model 3 production line almost entirely devoid of human operators and handmade components.
While Tesla has undoubtedly been a commercial success, their quality assurance has suffered as a result of subpar integration and automation. J.D. Power ranked Tesla dead last on their quality rankings, while customers have reported everything from sunroofs flying off at highway speeds, to leaking headliners.
Lights-out manufacturing may still be an overly ambitious dream today, but improving automation systems are bringing us continuously closer. With proper system integration through your assembly, automation and inspection systems, quality control issues do not need to be a feature of EV manufacturing, and +Vantage has the tools, capabilities and partners to guide you along the way.
How Are Electric Cars Manufactured?
To understand the challenges of the electric vehicle manufacturing process, and how automation integrators like +Vantage can help, it’s important to know the steps that go into car production. Here are the basics of the assembly process, and where our unique automation solutions benefit electric vehicle companies.
Assembly and Automation
In many ways, assembling electric vehicles largely follows the same lines of production as their internal combustion engine (ICE) counterparts. However, the big differences emerge at the drivetrain and the battery packs, the latter of which require a complex fabrication and assembly process. +Vantage Corporation is an industry leader in integrated automation solutions, and from our 50,000 square foot factory, we act as the single source system integrator for precision systems.
Robotic assembly is rapidly becoming a mainstay in the automotive section, and we have the expertise to develop seamlessly integrated systems running off PLCs. Each of these is in constant communication with the rest of the manufacturing line, reducing operator involvement and allowing for in situ statistical process control (SPC). Our assembly and automation expertise allows electric car makers to build advanced production lines. This includes fully automated systems with machine part tending, semi-automatic systems for predetermined operator involvement, and specialized processes for pressing, torquing, riveting and joining systems.
Arguably, inspection automation is just as important as assembly in developing a precise, efficient production line, and +Vantage excels here too. Our in-line metrology equipment runs the gamut from 2D and 3D vision systems to 100% automated inspections cells, which output to the previously referenced SPC system of your choice.
Inspection is doubly important for the manufacture of electric vehicles, as the battery packs feature numerous engineering challenges not found in ICE vehicles. During the manufacture and assembly of battery packs, you need to ensure stack alignment, injection seal integrity, and weld inspection of the cells, among numerous other parameters. This is why +Vantage partners with a variety of vision system providers including Cognex, Keyence, LMI, and others, for our vision and inspection systems. Through partnering with fellow industry leaders in its field, +Vantage is an expert in gauging and inspection systems for EV battery production.
These same inspection systems allow for rapid go/no go measurements by camera systems, which can rapidly compare components against a master CAD model, ensuring you won’t find any gaps in the bodywork or other more critical components. This also allows for the implementation of other poka-yoke processes, further ensuring quality control, and avoiding the dangerous oversights like the ones referenced earlier.
Among the many end-of-line inspection solutions we offer, leak testing is perhaps the most important for an electric vehicle, ensuring the batteries remain safely sealed under adverse conditions. Proper sealing prevents the formation of rust, corrosion, or other conditions in vital parts, which may lead to an electrical fire. We offer fully integrated leak testing systems in the method of your choice, from sniffing and spraying to bombing and accumulation testing.
The Automation Advantage
While others may have stumbled in their quest for electric vehicle automation, +Vantage is at the ready to make sure you can run, delivering a quality, defect-free product for ecologically minded car companies. Want to learn more? Contact us today so we can discuss what +Vantage Corporation can do for you!