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Laser Applications In The Production Of Li-Ion Battery Cells And Packs

Laser Applications in the Production of Li-Ion Battery Cells and Packs

The laser is at the center of many solutions when it comes to the global e-mobility trend. Here are a few examples of laser cutting applications in battery cell manufacturing and assembly. Article by Trumpf.

The worldwide mobility transition is in full swing. The demand for components for electric cars and alternative drives is rising continually. In particular, high-performance components directly involved in the production of batteries, electric motors and power electronics for electromobility are at the center. More and more companies, predominately automotive suppliers, are also demanding new manufacturing solutions and technologies for alternative drive concepts, including the fuel cell.

The laser is at the center of many solutions. It connects battery cells into modules or packs. It ensures tightness and crash safety when joining battery packs and trays. It scores highly thanks to its green wavelength when copper welding contact parts without spatter. And it provides high-tensile connections in e-drives, which withstand the highly dynamic requirements.

Manufacturing Battery Cells

Battery cell manufacturing is subdivided into electrode manufacturing and cell assembly. Electrode manufacturing requires a high variety of different process steps: mixing of the slurry, coating, drying, calendaring as well as shaping, folding and stacking of the coated electrode foil. Some of them required laser technology:

  • Micro structuring of the electrode surface with ultra-short pulse lasers, for example, reduces subsequently the charging time of battery cells.
  • Drying of electrodes with VCSEL laser technology to complement conventional drying ovens by reducing the footprint and increase efficiency.
  • Cutting and shaping of coated electrode foils with ns lasers into the required format, increasing quality and productivity. Common foil materials are aluminium (cathode) with a 5-14 µm thickness as well as copper (anode) with a thickness of 9-13 µm. Very often, these foils are coated. Cutting these foils with TruFiber laser sources enables burrs of less than 5 µm and HAZ of less than 40µm. 

In the cell assembly, the steps are contacting, packaging, formation, and aging. Laser technology is used here mainly in welding applications for the internal contacting of battery cell components and the closing of prismatic cell formats:

  • Green laser wavelength for the very defined and repeatable welding of copper materials.
  • High power IR lasers combined with Trumpf’s BrightLineWeld technology for spatter free welding of aluminium or copper materials.

Both laser applications enable the highest mechanical strength and lowest electrical resistance in welding of ≤100 foils together to a stack.

On the cell level, besides these different welding applications, there are also some upcoming laser applications for surface processing like cleaning, de-coating or micro structuring with short or ultra-short pulse lasers.

Process stability is a key factor in the battery cell production. Therefore, all these laser technologies have a direct impact on the efficiency and performance of the battery.

Battery Module Assembly

After the battery cell manufacturing process, the single cells will be assembled to a battery module. The electronics and battery pack assembly have an enormous variance of different module designs. But all are based on prismatic, pouch or cylindrical cell formats.

Laser technology is used in welding of busbars, meaning the electrical contacting of single cells to a battery module, or other current carrying components. Due to the enormous number of different designs, material combinations and thicknesses, the full TRUMPF laser portfolio in terms of power, wavelength, beam quality is applied.

  • Especially for thicker aluminium busbars with welding depths mostly >2 mm and welding speeds of minimum 100 mm per second, the TruDisk laser series with patented beam shaping technology BrightLineWeld is the best choice since every single weld must be exactly the same and spatter projections must be avoided.
  • For the welding of dissimilar material combination like Al/Cu or Al/steal, we mostly recommend single mode IR lasers with a very high beam quality e.g. you can use the TruFiber Series for such applications. These lasers create a very small intermetallic phase in the welding seam, which is important for a strong joint of materials with quite different melting temperatures. By using different welding patterns, you can join Al with Cu or even the other way around. Typically, by oscillating the laser beam with a scanner optic to increase the cross-section area. For the contacting of cylindrical cells, the sheet thicknesses are usually in the range 0.2 – 0.5mm, and many times dissimilar material combinations or with coatings.

For most of the installations in battery and module manufacturing, TRUMPF lasers, optics and sensors are integrated in automated high-volume production lines, while its TruLaser Station and TruLaser Cell series are suitable in small- and medium-production volumes.

 

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Thailand To Lead In EV Battery Manufacturing And Assembly

Thailand To Lead In EV Battery Manufacturing And Assembly

Thailand’s assembly and output of Electric Vehicle (EV) batteries are predicted to reach 430,000 units by 2023, according to Kasikorn Research Center (K-Research). As such, Thailand will be responsible for three percent of global EV battery production by 2023 and will be placed top four in Asia. Moreover, sales of the three types of EVs—hybrids, plug in hybrids and battery EVs in Thailand will account for 25 percent of the total car market.

The research centre said, “The EV market is expected to increase significantly from 2019 as many car manufacturers have applied for the Board of Investment’s (BoI) incentives to localise EV assembly.”

With implementation of the government’s EV scheme to focus on hybrid and plug-in hybrid EVs, investment flow for EV battery assembly will follow. Furthermore, car manufacturers successfully granted the BoI incentives are required to carry out their plans within three years, by 2021. The assembly of battery EV’s depend on the coverage of EV charging stations, while hybrid EVs may extend into eco-hybrid cars. Sales of hybrid EVs will see significant increase since they have already been available. Car manufacturers like Toyota and Mercedes-Benz will be localising battery assembly, which will drive assembly manufacturing for EV batteries.

Thailand will be a hub for EV battery exports. 260,000 units of the 430,000 total battery output by 2023 will be supplied to the domestic market, while 40 percent or 170,000 batteries will be exported. Battery EVs will mainly be delivered to Japan, Oceania, Singapore and Malaysia due to rising income growth and government’s support for EV facilities. Furthermore, with the Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement, Thailand is set to become the original equipment manufacturer EV battery hub for Japanese car manufacturers.

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Nissan Launches First Electric Vehicle Batteries Recycling Plant In Japan

Nissan Launches First Electric Vehicle batteries Recycling Plant In Japan

Fukushima, Japan: Lithium-ion batteries from electric vehicles (EVs) will be given a new life at Japanese automaker Nissan’s Namie factory, as this refurbished battery for the Nissan Leaf car make will be sold at half the price—at 300,000 yen (US $2,855.51) of brand-new ones.

A joint venture between Nissan and the trading firm Sumitomo Corporation has been established, and the initiative is operated by 4R Energy Corporation.

According to Eiji Makino, chief executive of 4R Energy Corporation, “By reusing spent EV batteries, we wanted to raise the (residual) value of EVs and make them more accessible.”

When the batteries enter the plant, all 48 modules will be assessed over a four-hour proprietary process. Currently, the process is customised predominantly for the electric-powered first-generation Nissan Leaf.

However, batteries that have fallen below 80% of their energy capacity are not used for the Leaf recycling programme but are reassembled for lower-energy vehicles like golf carts, forklifts or for low-intensity functions in street lamps.

Mr Makino has also commented on 4R’s consideration to broadening their battery range to cater to more recent Leaf models, which consist of different chemical composition. The factory is expected to produce 2,250 battery packs, and several hundred other refabricated sets, annually.

Discussions are also underway for 4R to retrieve other reusable materials from used EV batteries, albeit the difficulty to completely dismantle them to be recycled on their own, said Makino.

The move is a game-changing one in the industry, as recycled batteries get circulated back into the life span of electric cars to impact the demand for new EV battery materials.

With a growing demand for EVs, automakers worldwide are seeking to make more cost-effective and durable batteries, which right now can account for up to a fifth of an EV’s cost due to increasingly expensive materials like cobalt and nickel.

As resources such as lithium and cobalt—fundamental materials in lithium-ion batteries powering EVs—become more critical in the near future, this sustainable treatment of worn batteries can potentially serve its environmental purpose in decreasing the pressure on scarce resources.

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Mercedes Invests In Battery Production

Mercedes Invests In Battery Production

Bangkok, Thailand: German original equipment manufacturer Mercedes Benz will collaborate with its partner Thonburi Automotive Assembly Plant (TAAP) for the expansion of its existing car plant in Bangkok. A new battery assembly facility will be built at the same site and slated for operation at the beginning of 2019.

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