Automated and electric

Automation is the key to high-quality, profitable and safe production of batteries in large quantities

Batteries are a crucial part of electric vehicles. The demand for batteries is huge. That is why gigafactories are being built around the world to produce battery cells. The trend is clear: electric cars are on the rise. The market share for internal combustion vehicles continues to decrease; according to experts, it will fall to about 45% in the next 5 years. The challenge is to profitably produce such huge quantities in high quality. The answer is automation. It guarantees efficiency and economy.

The material and manufacturing costs for a 90 kWh battery pack are high. That's why there can't be any errors or downtime. We supply the technology to produce high-quality batteries reliably and cost-effectively. This includes the automation of processes to prepare the raw materials, the fully automated production of battery cells and the automation of transport and assembly systems for precisely putting battery parts together. ​

Degassing and sealing: core processes in battery cell production

They take place immediately after the battery cells are first contacted with electrical voltage. It involves piercing the battery cells with lances, extracting the gas that is produced and then sealing them again. This is usually done by thermal or ultrasonic welding. Our handling solutions ensure a safe and dynamic process right through to inspection and labelling. ​

The production of batteries is complex. Quality, safety and profitability are important aspects. A factory with an annual capacity of 24 gigawatt hours processes about 400 tons of material per day, equivalent to the payload of more than ten articulated lorries. Day after day, around 500,000 batteries leave a gigafactory. That is why investment in expertise is high. Efficiency can only be ensured if the plants are operating productively and reliably, in other words with great speed, maximum throughput and the highest repetition accuracy. This requires technical expertise and reliable applications.

Battery module production: assembling valuable electrochemical components

Valuable electrochemical components are assembled during the production of battery modules. We offer perfectly matched solutions, particularly in the area of handling technology, for sturdy, reliable and precise gripping of battery cells. Special attention is paid to safety throughout the work process.

Producing high-performance storage is not without its difficulties. Batteries are in part made up of toxic components, and in some production areas fire and explosion prevention factors have to be taken into account. Some parts of the manufacturing process take place in cleanroom and dry room environments. Formed and activated batteries also carry electrical voltage. In short, process sensitivity is required in all production steps.

Complex requirements require reliable solutions

Manufacturing battery cells is a very sensitive process. On the one hand, the automation components are exposed to challenging ambient conditions such as dry rooms and, on the other hand, they have a direct influence on the quality of the manufactured battery cells due to the emission of particles. ​

Depending on the application, products in battery cell production must not emit any copper, zinc or nickel particles. Otherwise there is a risk that the quality of the batteries is reduced or even that they are unusable. We offer an extensive product range for battery cell production that takes these requirements into account.

Keeping sustainability in mind

Experts put the service life of electric car batteries at between eight and ten years. This means that the first batteries will reach the end of their product lifecycle in the near future. According to estimates, by 2025 some 600,000 tons of used batteries will need to be recycled. However, after the batteries have been removed from the vehicle and before they reach the recycling stage, they can be used in so-called battery farms or stationary storage systems.

The final stage in the life of a battery is proper recycling. First, the packs are mechanically disassembled into modules, battery cells and other components. At the moment, this is a difficult and laborious activity which is mostly done manually. This process can be sped up and simplified by the modular automation concepts that we already offer. Our complete factory automation portfolio is in demand for this process, since position detection, position corrections and a wide variety of handling technologies are involved.

The next step is to separate the materials such as metal, plastics and other materials. However, the focus here is not only on the automation solution. We offer suitable process automation products for this step, especially for hydrometallurgical recycling methods. A wide range of process valves are used for gaseous, solid or liquid substances.

Training for the industry of tomorrow

Large areas, favourable transport connections, low development costs and a reliable energy supply are important prerequisites for gigafactories. Other important aspects are having enough skilled staff as well as a sustainable power supply. The conversion to electromobility not only creates new factories, but also new tasks, professions and job profiles. All jobs for which employees need to be educated and trained. The Festo Didactic division offers specific training programmes to transfer the expertise that is needed in highly automated production plants. This includes practical hands-on training in factories, the creation of in-house learning factories and digital training content that can be accessed through the Festo Learning Experience (Festo LX) at any time or place.

February 2023