Rivian's Illinois Facility Is a Robotic Wonder Churning Out the R1T, R1S, Delivery Vans

Rivian Automotive, Inc, is an Irvine, California-based company that manufactures electric vehicles at an expensive factory in Normal, Illinois once used by Mitsubishi. The facility is capable of manufacturing 150,000 vehicles per year.
Rivian 6 photos
Photo: Rivian
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Rivian manufactures their R1T and R1S models on one production line and their EDV500 and EDV700 commercial vans on a separate line. The high-tech facility is nearly completely robotic in all phases of production from stamping and body assembly to painting, propulsion, general assembly, and end-of-line inspection.

The first phase of production is the stamping out of body panels where the company utilizes six presses to stamp out Class A-sized panels such as body sides to smaller structural panels. The vehicle bodies are mixed-material structures with the core structure being steel and the inner panels stamped from Aluminum.

Components move on from the stamping area into the body shop area where they are put together to form the bodies of the R1T and R1S models using a robotic and highly advanced spot welding process. A portion of the factory parking was used to build an addition to the factory to accommodate the EDV500 and EDV700 production lines. Because of the sheer size of the vans, huge dinosaur-like robots are required during the production process.

Rivian Factory
Photo: Rivian
Once the bodies have taken shape, the structures move on to a state-of-the-art paint shop. The paint shop not only applies paint to the bodies coming off the line, but also applies an electro-static coating to the 'skateboard' chassis and battery enclosures. The high-volume shop is equipped with a canister-based paint process that allows the operator to change colors without the need to purge the system. The process is very efficient, minimizes waste, and acts like a vending machine for painted vehicles.

The painted bodies are then assigned a 'whole-build' combination that is connected with a customer.

The drive unit assembly is the propulsion phase of production where the company builds the full drive units, assembles the gearboxes and inverters, and joins them with motors. The vehicles are powered by a quad-motor design; two motors per axle, one per wheel. The design allows for a distinctive feel for how the vehicles drive and handle.

Rivian Factory
Photo: Rivian
The battery shop builds sub-modules that go into modules that are bundled into packs that contain 7776 cylindrical cells.

CEO RJ Scaringe explains that a tremendous amount of tuning and training of the workforce took place to reach somewhat of an inflection point in terms of output and production. Based on the attitude, capabilities, and willingness to challenge one another, the Rivian workforce gives him a great deal of confidence in the path ahead.

Painted and assembled bodies, completed drive and motor units, batteries, and more than 2000 components from 400 suppliers, all converge on the general assembly area where the final vehicles take shape. There are two separate production lines at the Normal facility, one dedicated to the R1T /R1S models and one for the EDV500 and EDV700 commercial vans with both lines running in parallel throughout the plant.

Rivian Factory
Photo: Rivian
Once assembled, the vehicles go through a wheel alignment process, a headlight aiming process, and a dynamometer cycle to ensure that everything is working as designed. All of the numerous sensors in the vehicle are calibrated before the completed vehicles are subjected to a water test.

The final inspection phase looks for body fit issues and overall quality.

Founded by RJ Scaringe in 2009, the company was originally called Mainstream Motors before being renamed Avera Motors and finally Rivian (a word play on the Indian River in Florida where Scaringe grew up) in 2011.
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