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Arkansas Steel Takes Shape for Tesla

2 min read

A sprawling Texas plant features a heavy load of Arkansas steelwork courtesy of Little Rock facilities. Thousands of tons of framing for Tesla’s mammoth manufacturing hub in Austin were produced by W&W/AFCO Steel and Lexicon Inc.

Four months before its April 7 grand opening, the 4.2 million-SF Gigafactory Texas began moving battery-electric- powered vehicles along its assembly line.

What aspects of the nearly $1.1 billion project stood out to Grady Harvell, president of W&W/AFCO Steel in Little Rock?

“The speed of it and the size of it,” he said. “That’s a major job.

“We mobilized in October 2020, and there was no steel on the site, and they were producing cars at the end of 2021. To put a plant of that magnitude in operation in that kind of time frame is stunning.”

From the first day of site work until the first certificate of occupancy — 502 days — workers built an auto assembly facility that measured 3,826 feet long, almost two-thirds of a mile. The factory is producing Tesla’s Model Y and in the future will crank out the company’s Cybertruck.

“We’ve supplied 50,000 tons at that site so far,” Harvell said. “They’re still building facilities down there.”

Little Rock’s Lexicon fabricated and shipped 40,000 tons of steel to help construct Gigafactory Texas. The buildings within the building include paint, body, battery cell, plastics, drive unit, cathode, casting, stamping and general assembly.

“We had 10,000 tons of fabricated steel on the ground within 10 weeks, quite an accomplishment,” said Steve Grandfield, president of Lexicon’s fabrication group.

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Inc., touted the 15 city blocks-long structure as the largest factory building in the world by volume at 338 million cubic feet. Musk rolled out more superlatives, too. 

He labeled the plant as the most advanced car factory that Earth has ever seen and predicted that it would become the highest volume car factory in the nation, produce the most advanced battery cell in the world and eventually blossom into the biggest cell factory in the world.

Tesla developed the huge Gigafactory Texas in conjunction with moving its headquarters to Austin from San Carlos, California. 

The Tesla project is one among many steelwork jobs in progress for W&W/AFCO and Lexicon around the country.

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