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article imageTesla making steady progress in Model 3 production after glitch

By Karen Graham     Jan 26, 2018 in Technology
Tesla is denying reports that it continues to face major manufacturing issues due to a production bottleneck at its Gigafactory in Nevada, delaying the critical ramp-up of Model 3 production.
However, CEO Elon Musk did go into some details about the problems during the company's third-quarter earnings conference call with analysts while he was actually at the Gigafactory near Reno.
The production issues came to light after company insiders were quoted by CNBC as saying more delays can be expected.
A number of issues were mentioned in the CNBC story, with the Tesla employees citing inexperienced workers, manual assembly of batteries as late as mid-December. Some employees said quality control workers were not experienced, and two said that some batteries are leaving the factory with a potentially serious defect, a claim that Tesla vigorously denies.
Tesla s gigafactory in Sparks  Nevada is just a three hour drive from Clayton Valley. Elon Musk sign...
Tesla's gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada is just a three hour drive from Clayton Valley. Elon Musk signed a contract to buy lithium fromPure Energy Minerals Ltd. in 2015.
Tesla
Tesla launched the long-range Model 3 last July, and according to Digital Journal at that time, Musk said that he anticipated the company would enter "production hell" for the Model 3. And by November, Tesla was far behind its production targets.
Tesla says the bulk of its manufacturing issues center around the automated production lines at the mammoth battery factory. For the mass-market Model 3, the lines need to be even more automated than they were for the Model S and Model X batteries.
CEO Elon Musk said, "It is harder to supplement with manual than S or X because the system is designed as a very tightly integrated automated system."
For the Model 3, all the production is more automated, creating a serious problem: it's hard to fall back on hand-assembling. However, as Ars Technica points out, the CNBC story talked about the production lines in mid-December. But CNBC's Lora Kolodny will acknowledge that more recently, Tesla has begun to ramp up production.
Prototypes of 50 watt-hour/kilogram lithium ion polymer battery. Newer Li-ion cells can provide up t...
Prototypes of 50 watt-hour/kilogram lithium ion polymer battery. Newer Li-ion cells can provide up to 265 Wh/kg and last through thousands of charging cycles.
NASA
The battery in the Model 3
The issues all boil down to the battery assembly. The good thing about electric cars is they are less complicated than gas-powered cars and less complicated to build and maintain. That being said, the battery in a Tesla is a very costly and complicated component.
The production system at Tesla's Nevada Gigafactory was set up for building S and X batteries, and the automated production line did extremely well, however, it won't work for the Model 3 battery pack because it is too slow. And yes, it is true that in December, Tesla brought in Panasonic workers and some temps to manually assemble bandoliers, rows of lithium-ion cells glued on either side of a cooling tube.
This is where the problems arose. and according to the CNBC report, the employees said, "the complex and precise work is difficult to accomplish manually, resulting in high scrappage rates and the risk that some battery packs could fail in the field."
"Once the machines in the factory were able to crank out bandoliers as fast or faster than the manual laborers, Tesla began sending Panasonic workers back to their employer," Kolodny reports, citing anonymous sources at the factory. "Today, Tesla is winding down manual assembly as much as possible at the Gigafactory."
Tesla is very good at fixing problems, and Tesla is very good at setting ambitious deadlines for itself and then failing to hit them. And as the CNBC report suggests, things are looking up at the Gigafactory.
More about Tesla, Model 3, handassembly, production line, bandoliers