Video: Tesla Upgrades Factory for Model X, Names Robots After X-Men Characters

As anyone who has visited Tesla’s automotive production facility in Fremont California will tell you, Tesla’s Model S production lines only take up a tiny proportion of the massive 88-football field site where cars like the Chevrolet Nova, Geo Prizm, Toyota Corolla and Toyota Tacoma were once made.

Tesla's Fremont facility has been given some high-tech upgrades ahead of Model X production.

Tesla’s Fremont facility has been given some high-tech upgrades ahead of Model X production.

But while Tesla may have once seemed as well-suited to the former NUMMI facility as a wealthy spinster living alone in an 8-bedroom mansion, the electric automaker has been busy for the past few months expanding its production facilities to make way for the upcoming 2016 Tesla Model X. Due to enter production next year, the Model X will be Tesla’s second mass-produced electric car to be made at the Fremont facility.

In order to carry out the work safely, Tesla temporarily shuttered production at its plant, lowering the total number of cars produced during Q3, 2014 from its original production predictions. While this meant lower vehicle availability and longer wait times for customers, the temporary shuttering allowed Tesla to not only add additional production lines alongside its existing ones, but also allowed for some upgrades to the existing production line to improve efficiency and throughput.

These upgrades included adding capacity to the body shop, enhancing Tesla’s powertrain assembly line, and improving facilities for staff.  It also enabled Tesla to replace some of its old overhead vehicle transportation rails — which carried large body parts and body shells from one part of the factory to another — with advanced robots that take up far less space.

Tesla's official 'before' and 'after' photograph shows the trim line upgrades.

Tesla’s official ‘before’ and ‘after’ photograph shows the trim line upgrades.

As Tesla details in its own blog describing the upgrades, this particular upgrade dramatically improved available space on production lines, since the new, advanced robots can carefully and precisely lift nitre cars without taking up a lot of room. It also has the bonus effect of making the factory more inviting to work in, with less overhead equipment looming over production workers during their shift.

Tesla being Tesla however, the company wasn’t just content to replace traditional heavy-duty automotive production equipment with highly-sophisticated, high-precision robots: they had to be ten of the largest robots to be installed anywhere in the world.

And when you’ve got some of the largest robots in the world building one of the world’s most advanced cars, they deserve something other than names derived from their position in the production line. They deserve real names, names which are evocative of their precision, reliability, and power.

Tesla, it seems, agrees. In a stroke of marketing genius, it named its new robots after X-Men characters, with Xavier at the entrance to the trim line, Iceman, Wolverine and Beast doing some heavy lifting nearby. Meanwhile, the company says, you’ll find Storm and Colossus at the end of the chassis line, while Vulcan and Havok lift cars back onto the production rail at the end of new production line area. And in keeping with their comic book names, the robots even have some of their own comic book artwork enclosing their cases, showing them immortalised by pen and ink.

Tesla commissioned an artist to capture the 'X-Men' robots in full swing.

Tesla commissioned an artist to capture the ‘X-Men’ robots in full swing.

Eventually, the company says, the robots will even be able to install the battery packs in each and every Tesla to roll down the production line, reducing installation time from the current four minutes per battery pack to just two.

This, combined with a raft of other improvements inducing everything from improved LED lighting for workers to larger skylights and a fresh coat of white paint on newly-commissioned areas, means that the Tesla facility is now ready and able to increase its production, produce both dual motor and single motor variations of the Tesla Model S, and bring the model X to market later next year.

So if you’ve got a Tesla Model S or Tesla Model X on order, you’ll be able to tell your friends that it was built by the X-Men. And that, we think is pretty darned cool.

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