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Green is key: sustainability in battery manufacturing for E-mobility

06 March, 2020

How can automation solutions with artificial intelligence help optimise maintenance and production for sustainable manufacturing? Henry Claussnitzer, business engagement manager automotive, EMEA, Omron Europe, reports.

Today, sustainability is no longer a niche topic, but something that companies are integrating into their business strategies.

Not only are sustainability practices necessary to answer the changing demands of consumers, the marketplace and governments, they are also increasingly being seen as a competitive strength. That’s because sustainability practices reduce energy consumption and waste, and also help companies use their resources more efficiently. They even help companies optimise their manufacturing agility and enable them to respond to fluctuating demand and the growing need for personalisation. Sustainability can also play an important role in acquiring and retaining customers, as well in developing new market opportunities.

E-mobility: pouch battery production of the future

One area to shape the market with sustainable manufacturing approaches is through battery cell production. In Europe, for example, suppliers need to step up their game and compete with other regions by using better quality, more efficient production and an optimised use of resources. As e-mobility moves forward, more advanced battery technologies are being developed to increase the reliability, safety, and operation of vehicles. In the widely used cylindrical cells, the active layers are wrapped around the inner electrode.

In contrast, in pouch cells, the stacked layers are enclosed by a flexible outer foil, usually made of aluminum. Such pouch batteries meet some of the most important current requirements for the automotive industry. For example, they are easier to install in vehicles because of their flat and more flexible shape. They also offer longer battery life and are less susceptible to damage from electrical charging and discharging. At the same time, these batteries are safer and more consistent at lower cell temperatures.

However, the production of pouch cells is also more complex and much more demanding than the production of cylindrical batteries. This in turn places special demands on production. Manufacturers are turning to production processes supported by artificial intelligence to optimise machine efficiency and to ensure zero-defect production.

Automation solutions with artificial intelligence can fulfill all customer requirements for product quality and predictive maintenance, helping manufacturers to achieve sustainability goals. While battery manufacturers must adapt to the constant state of change in the e-mobility market, they need production lines that can be adapted faster and more flexibly than before to meet the changing requirements. This can be achieved with innovative automation solutions that also ensure quality and reduce waste, ensuring sustainability.

Process and plant control with predictive maintenance and AI

Operational excellence requires reliable, safe and high-quality manufacturing. Manufacturers must predict problems in their production lines better than ever to avoid production stoppages or quality issues. In this context, artificial intelligence is a key technology with advanced predictive maintenance solutions for machines as well as production lines.

Powerful AI controllers operating at the edge of the machine, together with smart sensors integrated in the production lines can react in real-time to potential issues on the machine, right where the data is generated. Using AI and smart devices, operators can stay on top of the current production status, and prevent production downtime, while ensuring product quality. AI along the manufacturing chain with predictive maintenance and process control helps to make manufacturing processes sustainable, extending machine lifespan and optimising resources.

Sustainability is no longer an isolated issue but must now be embedded in operations. Manufacturers have to reduce costs, energy consumption and waste but they also have to become more flexible and able to address fluctuating demand and increased customisation.

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