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Blog: DIGITALISATION IS KEY TO SUSTAINABILITY IN BATTERY MANUFACTURING
EFFICIENT PRODUCTION SETUP
There are various reasons why there is a wide range of research and development activities in the battery technology field. The main two reasons being (1) the fact that end customers expect longer battery life in product evolutions, and (2) the scarcity in certain raw materials that drive production costs and can lead to bottle neck situations in the supply chain.
DIGITAL TOOLS: OVERCOMING COMPLEXITIES
Consequently, most companies that are involved in the manufacturing of battery cells work on new battery technologies to address above issues. The greatest leverage of tackling them lies in the very early stages of battery cell production, namely in the mixing, coating, and drying of the electrodes’ slurry. Like baking a cake, these production stages offer a range of parameters that all influence the electrodes’ and therefore the cells’ performance. Hence arises a possibly overwhelming complexity when setting up and adjusting the production process. On the positive, there also results a wide range of tweaking options for the engineers. Yet, the level of complexity is almost impossible to oversee for engineers, which makes digital tools an absolute prerequisite.
DESIGN OF EXPERIMENTS
Our design of experiments software provides a toolset to create and maintain a set of rules that mimics the production system’s behaviour. This enables the user to make predictions on changes to the production setup e.g., how output parameters likely will vary when changing the respective input parameters. Based on those rules and process insights the system will automatically suggest the best set of physical tests to achieve a certain output goal. Hence, our customers save time and money when they work on exploring better performing electrode recipes.
ADVAnceD INFORMATION MANAGEMENT
Electric vehicles play an important role towards a more sustainable mobility. The rapidly increasing demand for batteries has led to a rise in newcomers to the battery manufacturing industry, especially in Europe and the United States. However, those companies are facing not only a war on scarce raw materials, but also a competition on talent. As of today, it is almost impossible to find engineers with several years of experience in producing batteries in larger scales.
ACCELERATING BATTERY MANUFACTURING
Hence, companies are left with building up production process experience themselves. Digital tools help in collecting, storing, and sharing knowledge across companies in an efficient manner. This is vitally important in lab settings, where experiments and tests are the main activities to quickly gain new process insights. Our toolset helps systematically collect data and information along these experiments in such way that it allows our customers to easily share and leverage the knowledge across their companies.
Thus, our customers build up a powerful knowledge base of process parameters and output results from the very early stages in their journey from lab to series production. Data input from different sources can be handled, which offers a wide range of manual and automated process steps. In later stages, this knowledge base is the foundation of simulation activities to validate changes to the process setup before physically testing them. As soon as a more complex Manufacturing Execution System is needed, the process knowledge can easily be imported to seamlessly continue to series production.
EFFICIENT PRODUCTION MANAGEMENT
Once you have found the sweet spot of your production system, you want to ensure that it is running in this very setting as long as possible to maximise the OEE of your production. This requires full transparency, understanding and control of all relevant production parameters, as well as enough quality gates to establish control loops.
A MODULAR MES
Over the years we have built a modular Manufacturing Execution System that can integrate to a wide range of production equipment, and augment those with other data sources from your production system. Our strong suite is the track & trace capability of high-quality, high-volume production facilities, even when our customers run hybrid production systems where continuous and discrete production steps are combined.
This state-of-the-art track & trace feature allows our customers not only to run their facilities at very high efficiency rates, but also meet their needs to have full documentation of relevant production information broken down on even to serial numbers.
INCREASED PRODUCTION YIELD
Battery packs are only as good as the pack’s least performant cell. Hence, the production process needs to be executed as stable as possible at the highest possible quality. This is of particular importance since raw materials for battery cells which makes scrap expensive.
Our digital quality assurance tooling helps to companies to ensure a smooth production at its sweet spot. For this purpose, we combine state-of-the-art equipment integration capabilities, with software modules that allow us to track the production system’s status paired with inline quality monitoring features. In later stages, we roll out Machine Learning algorithms to further optimise the operation setup.
A systematic quality assurance in a stressful environment is paramount for cell manufacturers to deliver committed products.