Automatic electric

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

Batteries are a crucial factor in electric vehicles. The need for batteries is immense. That is why giga factories are being built all over the world to produce battery cells. The development is clear: e-cars are on the rise. According to experts, the market share for combustion engines will continue to fall to around 45 percent in the next 5 years. The challenge is to produce such quantities in high quality profitably. The answer is: automation. This guarantees efficiency and economy.

There are high material and manufacturing costs for a 90 kWh battery pack. There must be no mistakes or standing still. We supply the technology to produce high-quality batteries reliably and cost-consciously. This includes the automation of the processes involved in preparing the raw materials, the fully automated production of the battery cells and the automation of transport and assembly systems for the precise assembly of the battery parts. ​

Degassing and sealing: core processes in battery cell production

They take place immediately after the first contact of the battery cells with electrical voltage. The battery cells are pierced with lances, the resulting gas is sucked out and then sealed again. This is usually done by thermal welding or ultrasonic welding. Our handling solutions ensure a safe and dynamic process right through to inspection and labeling. ​

Manufacturing batteries is complex. Quality, safety and profitability are crucial 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. Therefore, a lot of know-how is invested here. This is only efficient if the plants work productively and reliably, i.e. with high speed, maximum throughput and the highest repeat accuracy. This requires technical competence and reliable applications.

Battery module production: assembly of valuable electrochemical components

Valuable electrochemical components are assembled in battery module production. In the field of handling technology in particular, we offer coordinated solutions for robust, safe and precise gripping and transporting of battery cells. Particular attention is paid to safety throughout the work process.

The production of high-performance memory is difficult in several respects. Batteries are assembled from partly toxic components, in some production areas fire and explosion protection aspects have to be considered. Parts of the production take place in clean room and dry room environments. Formed and activated batteries are also under electrical voltage. In short: Process sensitivity is required in all production steps.

Complex requirements need reliable solutions

Manufacturing battery cells is a highly 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.

Sustainability in focus

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 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 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. We already offer modular automation concepts that speed up and simplify this process. This is where our complete portfolio in factory automation is in demand, since location detection, position corrections and a wide variety of handling techniques are involved.

The next step is to separate the materials like metal, plastics and other materials. However, the focus here is not exclusively 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.

Qualification for tomorrow's industry

Large areas, good transport connections, low development costs and a secure energy supply are important prerequisites for giga factories. Important aspects are having enough specialist staff and a sustainable energy supply. The conversion to electromobility not only creates new factories, but also new tasks, fields of activity and job descriptions. Employees must be trained and educated for this. With targeted training programs, the Festo Didactic division imparts the know-how that is needed in highly automated production. The offer includes, among other things, practical "hands-on" training in the plants, the establishment of in-house learning factories and digital learning content that can be accessed on the Festo Learning Experience (Festo LX) anytime and anywhere.

February 2023