FANUC Robot Assembly Demo

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    The yellow robot arms dance through an assembly demo for Elon Musk and the rest of the tour group that visited the reopening of the former NUMMI plant, now Tesla Motors.

    And I got a pen out of it. =)

    Here’s my short HD video

    magnus_jo and Quest Telecom added this photo to their favorites.

    1. jurvetson 42 months ago | reply

      the product of their labors...
      FANUC Pen

    2. Coco Mault 42 months ago | reply

      That's a pretty cool souvenir! Loved the vid.

    3. nhr 42 months ago | reply

      "We spent millions setting up this robotized production facility and all we got is this lousy pen."

    4. solerena 42 months ago | reply

      cool portrait of Elon and robots, another strange deja vu...his eye expression... pen is just a beginning...and fun any way!

    5. sunrizr 42 months ago | reply

      amazingly (to my eye) was the delicate precision with which the two arms assembled the stylo....was this staged, because they were like two ducks in pantomime, or do they work in unison that rhymthically always?
      (( maybe it's a magic pen:))

    6. nhr 42 months ago | reply

      Small robot arms able to perform delicate manufacturing tasks, like assembling pens, are quite unusual in normal car factories: the subsystems requiring detailed assembly work — e.g. dashboards, pumps and injectors, electronic control units, hydraulic circuit components — are generally delivered by subcontractors as fully completed modules.

      I thus wonder what Tesla will be using these cute robots for. Production technology development ? Or the own manufacturing of very Tesla-specific subsystems unavailable from normal supply sources, like battery packs assembled from a multitude of cells, or power electronics modules, or gearboxes, or motors ?

      Speaking of batteries, I can't help but think that current battery technology is an incredibly weight-inefficient way to store energy, in the way a rocket is a fundamentally weight-inefficient vehicle.
      A rocket must carry its own, heavy stores of fuel and oxidizer. Likewise, an electrical battery is based on redox reactions, and contains both its "fuel" and "oxidizer". Furthermore, a battery — unlike a rocket — generally doesn't discard its "waste" product — e.g. lithium compounds — into the environment, and thus doesn't get any lighter as its energy-releasing chemical reaction progresses.

      Batteries that use atmospheric air as the oxidizer, and "batteries" — or rather, fuel cells — that unload waste products (e.g. dihydrogen monoxide ;-) into the atmosphere would be more advantageous from an energy/weight point of view, but their practical deployment is still very far in the future.

      With EVs, battery technology is thus a key competitive factor. The use of standard 18650-type Li-ion elements in the Tesla Roadster's battery pack was a great idea, but the EV market is moving on. Thus, what kind of battery pack will Tesla use for the Model S ?

      In digital imaging, the improvements of CMOS image sensor photosites — sensitivity, noise, back illumination, process technology etc. — are essentially driven by the mobile phone market, not by the digital camera market.

      A typical mobile phone's camera's CMOS sensor would be 6mm in diagonal; advanced digital cameras' CMOS sensors have diagonals typically ranging from 28 to 43mm.

      The current worldwide market for digital cameras having large sensors of about 43mm diagonal is a few hundred thousand units per year at most. OTOH, several hundred million camera-equipped mobile phones are sold every year. There is thus much more silicon sold as mobile phone CMOS imaging sensors than as advanced digital camera CMOS sensors.

      Like an advanced camera CMOS imaging sensor, the Tesla Roadster's battery pack could thus be designed as a high-end product that indirectly leverages the technological progress and cost reductions driven by a very large, hyper-competitive consumer market.

      With the new generation of EVs like the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi MIEV, joint ventures between large car manufacturers and battery companies are bringing to market Li-ion batteries specifically optimized for vehicle usage — including cycle longevity, reliability and energy density.

      Considering the typical weight of an EV's battery pack, the total volume of Li-ion batteries destined for EV usage will probably soon overtake the market volume of standard 18650 batteries.

      Unlike what happened with image sensors — low cost volume market indirectly benefiting more expensive applications, — the volume driver in Li-ion battery technology could thus well become the EV market. In such a scenario, would a small company like Tesla have any meaningful competitive advantage trying to develop their own, distinguishing battery technology, compared with the JVs with large R&D budgets that are focusing on the same objective ?

      This, of course, doesn't mean that there won't be a market for Tesla-brand EVs: fairly niche car manufacturers like Spyker or Jaguar still continue to exist alongside behemoths like Toyota, Volkswagen etc., and Intel CPU-based Apple computers are quite successful in the face of competition from Intel CPU-using PC manufacturers like HP, Dell, Acer, Lenovo, Sony, Toshiba etc.

    7. jurvetson 42 months ago | reply

      I've been biting my tongue on the battery topic.... but now you can see that others agree with you, especially on the growth drivers for the industry. =)

      Yes, energy storage is the key. This makes electric airplanes difficult. All vehicles will become electric once we solve this problem. Trains, tanks, and heavy equipment are electric motor driven today, but they use diesel engines to generate the electricity (they are serial hybrids like the Volt - the gas engine just generates electricity and is not mechanically coupled to the drive train. A nice kludge to take advantage of the energy density of liquid fuels).

      yes.... a delicate dance with syncopated pirouttes.... but then, you'll notice, they just start screwing.... =)

    8. nhr 42 months ago | reply

      Reliable Li-ion batteries are of course extremely important: the batteries' actuarial life and Tesla's financial provisions accompanying the assumed product warranties should be consistent with the customers' reliability and operational cost expectations.

      As far as the reinforced relationship with Panasonic is concerned, I guess it will have a positive effect on the development by Tesla of complete electric powertrain subsystems marketable to other EV manufacturers.

      In time, Tesla's powertrain business might well generate a turnover larger than its car business, which would explain the presence of those mini robot arms that are more often found in the factories of part suppliers than in those of car manufacturers.

      Still, having actual cars like the Roadster and the Model S in the product lineup is important, as it adds credibility to Tesla's powertrain offerings. The own development of marketable cars will presumably generate important engineering and marketing insights that will inform the design of packaged powertrain solutions attractive to OEM customers.

      Of course, an advanced powertrain is more than an assembly of physical parts. AWD EV vehicles like the RAV4, for example, might benefit from individual wheel torque control, implementing an electronically controlled oversteer and understeer chassis behavior based on input from accelerometers and angular velocity sensors.

      This is an area where software — a Silicon Valley specialty — becomes important, including the conception of well thought-out protocols and APIs allowing the vehicle supervisor software designed by the car manufacturer to interface with Tesla's powertrain regulation subsystems.

      This is also an area where competent management of the deliverables' definition and responsibility demarkation points with the OEM customer would be critical, as product liability litigation traceable to vehicle stability issues can become quite expensive problems.
      A management culture inclined towards overpromising and underdelivering could be disastrous in such an environment…

    9. sunrizr 41 months ago | reply

      dear santa, would you please add one of those batteries they seem quite excited about to my list oh, and one of those special pens:)

    10. jurvetson 41 months ago | reply

      ho ho ho - email me a mailing address, and I'll play elf

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