Toshiba: model-based development in automotive manufacturing
In recent years, model-based development (MBD) has become an increasingly popular and productive technique within the manufacturing sector, offering a number of advantages over alternative methods. Nowhere has this been more evident than within the automotive industry, where – through MBD’s process of simulating vehicular components against external models which emulate various traffic conditions – it has helped manufacturers to accelerate the development process of individual components, and prevent costly reworks.
However, that same speed of innovation which drove auto-makers towards MBD is arguably also now responsible for them outgrowing it as a technique in its current form. The recent emergence of CASE technologies – those which revolve around the development of Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electric vehicles – has naturally come to the forefront of automotive development, in turn introducing new complexities for manufacturers as they strive to ensure these new systems can work effectively together.
This is where MBD hits a stumbling block. While it is effective in testing the efficiency of individual components, it struggles to keep pace with the interconnectivity of today’s cars following the arrival of numerous various electronic components and systems within the CASE fields – all of which need to be able to work together. For manufacturers who are operating in a fast-moving and highly competitive sector, it is imperative that they are able to test the viability of these technologies against one another to ensure they will work seamlessly together within the final car.
The challenge comes not only in bringing these proprietary technologies together in one place for testing and verification, but also in doing so early enough in the process to be able to identify problems and avoid expensive reworks down the line.
A cyber-physical era of model-based development
By applying a cyber-physical approach to model-based development, this problem can be overcome. This firstly raises the question, what does a cyber-physical approach entail? In principle, cyber-physical systems (CPS) are defined as those which collect real-world data and analyse it within cyber or digital environments – using technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) – before then applying the learnings back within the physical world to create added value. Such methodology is being applied today across the manufacturing sector and beyond, by companies like Toshiba, to help organisations build transformative, more sustainable solutions in a more effective way.
In the context of MBD, while many companies have to date purchase their own simulation tools from a vendor, the landscape is currently fragmented with these models operating independently of one another, and therefore being difficult to connect. This is where a cyber-physical approach has the potential to revolutionise what can be achieved, and subsequently simplify the challenges facing automotive companies today. Toshiba’s Distributed Co-Simulation Platform, for example, deploys a cyber-physical system to model-based development, essentially evolving it to a new level of large-scale simulations which connect multiple models – owned by different automakers and parts suppliers – within a single digital testing environment.
Such solutions allow automakers to create a fully virtual prototype of the car, enabling them to perform the necessary verifications of today’s complex automotive control systems much earlier in the process – and in turn, significantly improve quality and productivity. Connections between different suppliers can be automated to reduce man-hours, while simulations can be executed via the cloud to reduce latency and considerably accelerate the wider verification process.
At the same time, by bringing different companies together for joint verification while simultaneously maintaining the confidentiality of sensitive information for all participants, more automotive companies will be encouraged to collaborate within such environments. Efforts are already in place to set standards and shape the future of MBD within the automotive industry, with initiatives for a more cooperative approach being led by Japan’s Ministry for Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), as well as private vendor-neutral organisations like Germany’s Prostep AG. This can only be a good thing in terms of quickening the mainstream arrival of CASE vehicles, given the potential benefits they offer from an environmental and sustainability perspective.
The collaborative nature of cyber-physical systems like Toshiba’s Distributed Co-Simulation Platform will continue to become increasingly important within the automotive and wider manufacturing sectors, and not just for the cost and productivity efficiencies they bring. Within the current landscape, as global societal and business environments change, organisations will become ever more reliant on knowledge and information sharing to advance technological solutions and create a more sustainable society. A joint approach to techniques such as model-based development may be a first step, but as the physical and digital worlds continue to converge, we will undoubtedly see the emergence of more cyber-physical systems which transform the way in which we work and live across multiple domains.
Timeline: Tesla's Construction of Gigafactories
Tesla's mission to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy
Founded in 2003, Tesla was established by a group of engineers with a drive to "prove that people didn’t need to compromise to drive electric – that electric vehicles can be better, quicker and more fun to drive than gasoline cars." Almost 20 years on, Tesla today is not only manufacturing all electric vehicles, but scaleable clean energy generation and storage too.
"Tesla believes the faster the world stops relying on fossil fuels and moves towards a zero-emission future, the better," says Tesla. "Electric cars, batteries, and renewable energy generation and storage already exist independently, but when combined, they become even more powerful – that’s the future we want. "
In order to deliver on its promise of "accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy through increasingly affordable electric vehicles and energy products," Tesla's Gigafactory journey began in 2014 to meet its produciton goals of 500,000 cars per year (a figure which would require the entire worlds supply of lithium-ion batteries at the time).
By ramping up its production and bringing it in-house, the cost of Tesla 's battery cells declined "through economies of scale, innovative manufacturing, reduction of waste, and the simple optimisation of locating most manufacturing processes under one roof." With this reduction in battery cost, "Tesla can make products available to more and more people, allowing us to make the biggest possible impact on transitioning the world to sustainable energy."
2014: Giga Nevada and Giga New York begin construction
Born out of necessity to meet its own supply demand for sustainable energy, Tesla began the construction of its first Gigafactory in June 2014, in Reno, Nevada, followed by its Buffalo, New York facility the same year. "By bringing cell production in-house, Tesla manufactures batteries at the volumes required to meet production goals, while creating thousands of jobs," said Tesla.
2016: Reno, Nevada grand opening
Tesla’s construction of Giga Nevada came to an end in 2016, the first of its Gigafactories to complete its construction project. The factory’s grand opening took place in July 2016, and by mid-2018 reached an annual battery production rate of 20 GWh, which made it the highest-volume battery plant in the world that year.
2017: Giga New York begins production
Two years after Tesla’s second Gigafactory began construction, Giga New York was complete, and started its production operations in 2017.
2019: Giga Shanghai construction to production in record time
In 2019, Tesla selected Shanghai as its third Gigafactory location. The company constructed the factory in record time, taking just 168 working days from gaining permits to finishing the plant's construction.
2019: Giga Berlin begins construction
Announced in November 2019, Tesla began the construction of its first European Gigafactory in Berlin. The Gigafactory is still under construction.
2020: Giga Texas begins construction
The following year in August 2020, Tesla began the construction of its Giga Texas factory. The company’s third Gigafactory in the US is still under construction.
2021: Giga Texas and Giga Berlin expected completion of construction
Looking to the future, Tesla expects to complete the construction of its Giga Texas and Giga Berlin factories in May 2021 and July 2021 respectively.