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Tesla Model X natural fiber reinforced PP door carrier part with its surface of a TPO film with foam backing.
Tesla Model X natural fiber reinforced PP door carrier part with its surface of a TPO film with foam backing.
Photo: 12

Kiefel GmbH, a member of the Brückner Group, revealed that the internal paneling of the doors of two Tesla models is made with its vacuum laminating technology.

Tesla Model X is a seven-seater electric SUV famous for its Falcon Wing doors. They elegantly open upwards, allowing the passengers to enter and exit in comfort. The electric mobility company has also rolled out a compact and affordable EV – the Model 3 recently.

As different as the two vehicles are, the requirements for the interior fittings remain similar. They must be lightweight and fit into the two design concepts of the interiors. The interior door panels of both models are manufactured by machines designed by Kiefel.

For the Model 3, Kiefel developed and registered for patent a vacuum-laminating technology. The technology allows film-free areas. Separate individual vacuum chambers ensure that the film only contacts the component at the areas to be laminated. The areas that will later be free from film are subsequently punched out and later supplemented with other applications such as, for example, leather inserts.

For two years, the natural fiber reinforced polypropylene (PP) door carrier part of the Model X has been given its surface of a thermoplastic olefin (TPO) film with foam backing using vacuum-laminating technology on an inline Kiefel machine with the associated vacuum lamination tools. Kiefel's machines and tools also handle the next process step, the so-called edge-folding.

The vacuum-laminating and edge folding technology with the low unit numbers of the Model X is now also proving itself with the higher production figures for the Model 3.

Four inline vacuum-laminating systems – two of which are located in California, the US, and two more in Mexico – are used for the paneling of the compact EV. In just 50s, these systems laminate the film onto door frames and door upper panels.

Kiefel has developed a completely new inline system concept for the edge-folding. The inline folding machines are equipped with a quick tool change system. This allows a tool change in only 6 minutes – not just for the edge folding machines, but also for the tools of the laminating machines.

"Tesla will manufacture more than 2,000 Model 3 vehicles per day. With a product mix, short cycle times and rapid tool changes are indispensable," said Kiefel Sales Manager Wolfgang Eglseer.

Speed was of the essence for the new model, as Eglseer recalled, "The time pressure was immense. The first discussions took place in June 2016 and the start of production for the Model 3 was June 2017."

"We also won the contract because we have our own subsidiaries in the US and Mexico as an international company. In particular, in the US we can provide our own local tooling and a well-equipped Technology Centre," he added.

The company used this pilot machine plant near Detroit to produce several 100 pre-production parts on pre-production tools, before the production line for Model 3 was completed.

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