Many things about the Gigafactory being built by Tesla east of Reno NV are noteworthy. They include the sheer size of the building, the leading-edge automated manufacturing techniques being used – and the fact that because nothing quite like it has ever been done before, there’s a steep learning curve involved. For this project, Verus was contacted by a machine manufacturer in Michigan, which was responsible for providing some of the manufacturing lines in the Gigafactory, to set up some automated factory control systems. The work involved designing, specifying, programming and installing a wide array of on-machine electrical controls for the largely-automated assembly lines. This project brings to life several trends in manufacturing today, particularly in the way it is being done in the Developed World. Tesla’s Gigafactory is famous for its size – it’s been widely reported that Plant 1, when completed, will have the largest footprint of any building in the world. This means that as just one of many contractors working on the project, Versus’ contributions had to be coordinated with those of many other parties involved. The degree of automation meant that the sensory devices had to provide plant management with a comprehensive picture of the current state of operations. This is because with this degree of automation, there is less chance that there will be a human operator close by to notice if parts of the process are not functioning as they should.
Employee safety is of paramount importance to Tesla, and our work involved determining what safety devices would be required. This included light curtains that sense an operator’s hand coming too close to an unsafe area, so that the machine will stop, as well as e-stops (emergency stop buttons) in case a problem develops. Finally, because much of what is being implemented at the Gigafactory is new, it is a learning experience for everyone involved. This has meant frequent changes in the factory’s designs – and we had to accommodate those changes on the fly in an expeditious fashion to get the systems installed at an accelerated pace. This meant providing a work product, including drawings that electricians found workable from an installation point of view, despite the frequent design changes.
Meeting the challenges of the Gigafactory project showcases Versus’ ability to add value in highly automated manufacturing situations.