Steve April 22, 2021
tesla-creates-new-team-to-accelerate-use-of-new-materials-in-its-products

Tesla is creating a new team to accelerate use of new materials in its products and processes.

This new move aims to capitalize on Tesla’s longtime focus on new materials science.

For the last five years, Elon Musk has pushed Tesla and SpaceX to invest more in materials science.

Through his “first principal” philosophy, Musk has been drawn to redesigning materials in order to solve problems.

Electrek exclusively reported on the hiring of Apple’s alloy expert, Charles Kuehmann, to lead materials engineering at both of his companies simultaneously.

Later, we also reported that Kuehmann created a new cross-company material engineering team at Tesla and SpaceX to develop new advanced materials.

The team has been focused on creating new alloys for its products, like new aluminum alloy for casting larger parts in Tesla vehicles or new stainless-steel alloys for SpaceX’s starship and Tesla Cybertruck’s exoskeleton.

Now, we learned that Tesla is creating a new Materials Applications Team to help integrate those new materials faster.

David Nelson, who was leading drive system engineering at Tesla, has been put in charge of building the new team.

He wrote on LinkedIn:

“I have moved on from leading the design of motors and gearboxes to a new role on the Materials Engineering team at Tesla. The idea is to accelerate the adoption of new materials and processes – helping to bridge the gap between materials science and part design.”

The engineer says that he is looking to hire design engineers to build the team:

“This is a new team that I get to build from scratch! It’s a chance to do advanced development with world-class materials scientists and product design teams. If you are a broadly-talented design engineer please take a look at this job posting and apply.”

In the job listing, Tesla describes the new Materials Applications Team:

“The purpose of the Materials Applications Team is to accelerate the adoption of new materials and processes at Tesla. Our goal is to work on problems that make step changes in the optimal design space. As a Design Engineer on the team, you will bridge the gap between materials science and part design. That can mean many different things depending on the material or process. On any given day you might design prototype tooling to make trial parts, work with vendors to perfect a process, perform large design space studies to see how a new material impacts mass and cost, or work in the lab to characterize a part or system.”

In the job responsibilities, Tesla makes it clear that the new team is going to support the part designers in adopting new materials:

  • Meet with materials engineers to understand the strengths and weaknesses of proposed materials or processes and how those affect part design
  • Meet with part owners in design teams to understand design requirements for their parts
  • Create models to demonstrate the possible gains offered by a new material or process
  • Create 3D and 2D CAD for prototype parts and/or tooling
  • Source prototype parts and tooling
  • Design test plans for prototypes and assist in test execution and data collection
  • Report out results to executives with recommendations for next steps
  • Work with the design, test, sourcing, program management, and finance teams to transition new materials and processes to production

One of the main examples of Tesla adopting new materials is with the Cybertruck’s exoskeleton, which will use the same or similar alloy as SpaceX’s Starship, which itself is still evolving.

Musk commented on the alloy last summer:

“We’re rapidly changing alloy constituents and forming methods, so traditional names like 304L will become more of an approximation.”

The CEO confirmed that the new alloy will also be used in the new electric pickup truck coming to market later this year or early next year.

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