How to get rid of the weakest link
Creating a cost- and quality-optimized battery value chain in Europe
Electric and hybrid vehicles offer a great potential to meet the social challenges of future mobility in a sustainable manner. Here, the lithium-ion battery plays a key role now. The cell technology enables high ranges of electric vehicles while at the same time providing attractive driving dynamics, which makes the new vehicles attractive for the customer.
Battery systems of hybrid vehicles include up to a hundred lithium-ion cells, depending on the range required to drive the vehicle electrically and the capacity of the cells. Several thousands of cells can be installed in pure electric vehicles. As a cell format, three different lithium-ion cells have prevailed: cylindrical, pouch and prismatic cells. Depending on the electrical connection of the cells and the available space, several lithium-ion cells are installed by contacting to a battery module. These subunits offer advantages in handling and mounting the battery system. Battery modules are then merged into a high-voltage battery pack and integrated into a battery system.
According to the current state of knowledge, the assembly of E-Mobility modules and packs is done on automatic or semi-automatic chained production lines.
The module feeding, the module test, the module installation into the battery housing and the module screwing are automated. All other production steps such as cooling systems, cabling, pre-assembly of plugs or venting elements as well as installation of coolant distributors or seals are carried out at manual stations.
The module production has a higher degree of automation but is also carried out on state-of-the-art chained production lines. The printed circuit boards and wiring harness are usually assembled manually here. There is a lot of catching up to do in series production, but also in the prototype and small series sector.
Conventional production lines have various disadvantages:
⦁ high change-over times
⦁ low flexibility
⦁ small variety of product variants which can be produced
⦁ no shared used of processes between different chained assembly lines possible
⦁ in the event of an accident/unexpected break down of a machine part in a chained production line will causes the shutdown of the entire production line
In general, as with a chain, a production line is only as strong as its weakest link. The slowest machine in the production line therefore specifies the maximum production cycle/output. To compensate for different cycle times on different production lines, small intermediate storage (buffers) must be set up at the ends. Not only does their use cause time delays; from the logistics sector, it is well known that storage costs must be avoided.
Due to the ever-increasing demand for high-voltage batteries and the associated high number of cells installed in electric and hybrid vehicles, automated and highest flexible manufacturing processes with short process times and high process reliability are required.
Data handling and processing are one of the most important parts in the battery systems value chain to increase quality and safety at the customers and to degrease battery cost via smart solutions. Those topics must be implemented in very early stages of prototyping and small series to ensure reproduceable production quality for product testing, validation and legal approbation.
For those reasons, the innovative principle of matrix production is pursued by Rosendahl Nextrom, which is a highly flexible manufacturing (technology) solution for small and large-scale production without sacrificing the cost-effectiveness of a flow production.
The aim is to create a cost- and quality-optimized battery value chain in Europe. The market penetration of e-mobility and new battery systems in Europe is to be supported in the best possible way by standardization and flexibilization of production as well as process innovation and optimization using the digitalization of factories.
A new road to success
Innovation, flexibility, scalability, cost-efficiency – these and a lot of other words describe the way to success. Therefore, production solutions for E-Mobility Module and Pack assembly for the processing of cylindric, prismatic and pouch cells with different sizes and materials are necessary.
The implementation of a matrix production allows newcomers, well established manufacturers and transformers to build up a scalable E-Mobility manufacturing system which is easily adaptable to different battery types. The optimization of resource management, avoidance of environmental pollution and development of innovative hard- and software applications is in the focus.
Small-series production and mass production have their own, very special requirements. Individual adjustments in the level of automation fulfill these requirements – of course the costs for these changes should be kept as low as possible.
One step further is to implement an AGV system (automated guided vehicles) which leads to another level of automation.
The aim is to achieve a lot size of 1 with the new production solution that means that you can produce products individually without incurring high costs when changing the machine. The upgraded production plant is capable of processing cylindrical, prismatic as well as pouch cells almost fully automatically into battery packs.
The production system can grow at any desired time from micro to large-scale production.
Another key advantage is that new extensions are integrated into the overall system without negatively affecting them in manufacturing.
In summary, the innovative matrix structured production enables not only flexible manufacturing but also reduces the lead time through unit extensions. That means modules with premium quality can be produced at affordable cost with extreme variety of types.
“We follow the approach to elaborate an additional benefit for customers targeting and efficient production process, overlapping traceability of the whole value chain of battery systems and a reduction of further development durations for change implementation and new products”, according to Mr. Alexander Schweighofer, Business Development Manager LIB
Rosendahl Nextrom targets to build a comprehensive network architecture including simulation and 3D visualization for a holistic planning and realization of the products. Generated data during production process shall be used as well as feedback loop for the development and optimization of new machines with the support of the digital twin approach.
A specific focus of the solution is for customer the ability for continuous improvement and optimization to build a sustainable value chain.
One major technology which will be implemented to build a network which is capable of fulfilling the requirements of the connection of different kind of tools is the usage and expansion of the 5G technology. 5G enables a real time connection between different end users and machines and supports the integration and the data transfer between all connected participants. As main advantage to implement data among the value chain is the generation of an own private 5G VPN tunnel with the relevant companies. This open the opportunity to implement and improve process quality based on the availability a raw data information from supplier.
The intelligent production of the future must be highly flexible, highly productive and resource efficient.
Development Center for new solutions
“Our development center, which is in Austria, not only offers space for R&D projects and process developments but also the possibility to test and successively develop new kinds of manufacturing solutions in close cooperation with local and European companies, research institutions and universities” Alexander continued.
“In conclusion new kinds of manufacturing could be tested and successively developed to reduce the long-term costs to produce modules and battery packs. The development of the required different manufacturing solutions is driven by Rosendahl Nextrom due to its longtime experience in battery machine production and knowledge and contacts in the battery producing industry.
The final goal is to establish a new manufacturing (technology) solution highly variable and flexible for different market demands”. Alexander concluded.