Toyota has introduced gigacasting equipment that can fabricate a third of a car body in merely three minutes, aiming to expedite its electric vehicle (EV) production process. This innovation seeks to diminish plant investment and manufacturing preparation lead times, aligning with Toyota’s ambition to sell 3.5 million EVs yearly by 2030.
Located at the Myochi facility in Japan, the gigacasting machine exhibited its prowess by adeptly shaping molten aluminium. This method transitions aluminium from 700°C to 250°C to create a unified die-cast section that forms the entire back third of a vehicle’s frame, replacing a previous 33-step procedure that took hours and utilized 86 distinct components. Toyota’s primary goal is to decrease production stages by half, reduce expenses, and hasten production readiness. This technology will also be integrated into the front and rear segments of a forthcoming electric model slated for a 2026 launch, solidifying Toyota’s dedication to innovation and efficiency.
Toyota embarked on its gigacasting venture in September 2022, creating the first prototype. Although the initial mould exchanges took an entire day, enhancements in part removal processes have trimmed this down to just 20 minutes. Aiming to achieve a productivity rate 20% higher than its rivals, Toyota leverages custom software to fine-tune moulding conditions.
Aside from gigacasting, Toyota is also adopting a “self-propelled production” approach to enhance factory space utilization. At the Motomachi facility, semi-assembled vehicles autonomously move towards a robotic arm which affixes seats transported by an automated guided vehicle, consequently removing the necessity for conveyor belts and facilitating flexible plant layout modifications, alongside a 50% decrease in assembly duration.
In the past, elevated battery prices have posed a significant hindrance to EV profitability using traditional manufacturing techniques. Tesla, a forerunner in adopting gigacasting, secured a competitive edge by limiting models and maximizing production volumes.
The ambitious target set by Toyota is to ramp up sales to 1.5 million EVs by 2026, a substantial escalation from the roughly 24,000 units sold in 2022. Takaki Nakanishi, the CEO of Nakanishi Research Institute, foresees that about 40% of these vehicles will utilize the existing Toyota New Global Architecture platform, with the remainder being based on a platform exclusively designed for EVs.
To sustain profitability amidst the transition to electric vehicles, Toyota intends to incorporate these new frameworks in approximately 1.7 million of the 3.5 million EVs it plans to sell by 2030.