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Completely automated battery module production

An important condition for the international ambition 'enhancement of electromobility' is the availability of the required battery modules on the market in adequate quantity and quality. This requires the automated mass production of ready-to-install battery modules. System integrator Reis, one part of KUKA Industries, proves with a realized turnkey system that the complete know-how about the most versified processes is available in the company. In the end, Reis delivered a valuable, consistent solution as general contractor for such a project.

Battery modules are the crucial energy storage systems in electric vehicles. They must meet different requirements at the same time. Besides maximum capacity, a compact design, as lightweight as possible, is required. On the other hand, they must be mechanically so safe that short-circuits in case of crash and defects caused by vibrations are excluded - and all that in rough operating conditions that are found in vehicles. In addition, premium vehicle manufacturers claim reproducible quality at the highest stage, a durable product and a production volume adapting to the increasing demand. Manual work has reached its limit here. Asian battery manufacturers presently have a great advantage with regard to technology and market presence which they now want to secure with state-of-the-art production technology from Germany. Reis realized the reference project with one of the worldwide leading battery manufacturers who stakes on European quality standards and serves key accounts all over the world, also in the automotive sector - all that in a very ambitious time window due to the increasing demand for battery modules.

"It may be surprising at first, but the production of complete battery modules for the rough application in vehicles, consisting of individual Li-Ion cells, is not trivial", says Rüdiger Fecher, senior project manager battery at KUKA Industries, Reis GmbH & Co. KG Maschinenfabrik. "At first glance it's about tasks in the field of handling, surface treatment, joining, and welding. The challenge, however, is the integration of the most diverse little process steps to one faultless whole in which every step is minutely traceable and documented. In simple terms, it's about nothing less but the production as perfect as possible of battery modules being subject to highest quality demands in everyday life."

Process know-how

The name Reis has been standing for pioneer performance in automated and new processes for decades already. Also in case of battery production it's not only about the necessary automation hardware, but also about the most comprehensive solution of a task. Due to the worldwide market leadership in systems for the production of photovoltaic modules, Reis has the complete process know-how even in this special electro-technical area. In the current project Reis could prove again that process know-how and automation experience are joining here.

What were the special challenges of latest realized fully automated battery module production? Finally it's about a logical material flow without time lag as well as highest quality of the end product. "It was no option for us to leave any processing result to chance", adds Rüdiger Fecher. Therefore every step in production, no matter how small, is meticulously controlled, documented and permanently archived. He continues: "Though we had to accommodate the total system very compactly on a limited space at customer's site, it's the comprehensive sensor system and integrated quality assurance that distinguishes our solution clearly from other approaches. Already during infeed of the individual cells, a first identification and quality control of the cells with data matrix code acquisition and voltage measurement takes place."

Besides the electrics, accuracy also comprises the mechanic system. Several cells are composed to one module. For this purpose the surface of each single cell is prepared using plasma for the following glue application. After the cells required for one module have been stacked, insulators as well as end and side plates are added and the whole compound is taken from the corresponding fixture and supplied to a welding station. The housing is welded around the cells. When this is done, the minimum smoke residues (which cannot be completely avoided even with modern CMT welding) are brushed off. Another quality control follows. Are all cells placed mechanically and geometrically in the specified tolerance range? Are the cells electrically insulated among each other and towards the housing?

Now the laser applies a data matrix code which makes this cell stack unique forever. Now the bottom plate is inserted and the block is handed over to the laser welding station. After another measurement if the battery module is true to size, the circuit unit is welded with each single battery pole via remote laser optics from Reis Lasertec. At the end the total completed battery module is supplied to a final quality control to guarantee a long-term, trouble-free use in a car.

With regard to sensors, besides the electric measuring methods for the (mechanical) quality assurance Reis applies state-of-the-art imaging systems. High-tech cameras verify pole positions and dimensions.

Result

Rüdiger Fecher concluding: "The system enables our clients to supply the best possible products of constantly highest quality to their customers - German premium vehicle manufacturers. And in the end the rather old adage fits perfectly: The whole is more than the sum total of its parts - after all, 11 robots are working in the system, optimally coordinated and on confined space. And this whole ensemble was put into practice by Reis responsible as general contractor with engineering and project treatment in an international team which will also be available at site for the future operation.

Responsible for the content of this press release: KUKA Industries GmbH & Co. KG

Contact

KUKA Industries GmbH & Co. KG
Walter-Reis-Str. 1
63785 Obernburg
Germany
(+49 6022) 5 03-0
(+49 6022) 5 03-1 10

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