Importance of intralogistics in battery production
Maximum flexibility as a prerequisite for efficient battery production
However, the expansion of battery production not only offers great opportunities, but also creates new challenges for automotive manufacturers and the intralogistics industry. For example: so far there have been no clear market preferences in regards of uniform battery configurations. This means that vehicle manufacturers should not only have the flexibility and responsiveness to switch quickly and smoothly between different battery configurations, but also need to have all different battery configuration options available for the same electric vehicle model. This in turn is only possible with highly flexible, maximally reliable and automated intralogistics solutions. The rational: Around 70 percent of production time is spent on intralogistics.
Only if the right material is transported to the right place at the right time in the right quantity, plant and machinery can be used optimally. Thus, intelligent and digitalized intralogistics systems are the prerequisite for making the progressive automation and individualization of production processes more efficient, flexible and effective.
But what exactly are the requirements for the intralogistics of a future-proof battery production?
In the booming e-mobility market and the associated rapidly increasing demand for lithium-ion batteries, also the need for suitable high-performance and innovative intralogistics solutions is growing. For the manufacturing of the “heart of an electric vehicle”, intralogistics solutions with high system availability are required to enable flexible and individualized battery cell production and battery module and battery pack assembly.
The rapidly growing demand for lithium-ion batteries shapes the requirements of enhanced intralogistics.
It can be assumed that both the demand for lithium-ion batteries will continue to rise and that no standardized, manufacturer-independent battery configurations are to be expected in the near future.
Consequently, a future-proof intralogistics system must therefore be easily expandable and flexibly adaptable at any time - while always ensuring maximum system availability. In this context, the scalability of the intralogistics system is of crucial importance: on the one hand, in order to be able to react to fluctuations in battery demand or in the procurement market for raw materials, and on the other hand, to enable manufacturers to develop and validate new and more powerful battery cells, modules or packs in a short time and bring them quickly to market maturity.
Due to different production and assembly phases in battery production, various adjustments in the intralogistics system are conceivable to increase throughput:
In order to be able to transport battery cells and finished batteries to the different transport destinations at the same time, a modular transfer system such as the intelligent and flexible montrac® monorail and shuttle transport system from montratec is of decisive advantage: Integrated, electrically operated switches, crossings and bypasses enable an optimal use of processing stations with different throughput times as well as the integration of buffer zones is possible. In addition, transport routes over several floors, which in turn are interconnected via lift systems, or even the complete assembly of the transport system under the ceiling, ensure larger free production areas.
Autonomously controlled montrac® transport shuttles, independently finding the optimal route on the monorail, enable for example a continuous material flow, even if the processing times vary at the work and assembly stations along the transport route or if various goods in different batch sizes are to be transported on the same route. This ensures flexible scaling or individual adaptation of different production and intralogistics processes. Due to the modular design of montrac®, based on mutually compatible standard components, adaptations or extensions of the system design can be easily implemented with minimal interruption times in the production process.
High available systems optimize the performance of intralogistics in battery production.
In terms of maximum system availability montrac® scores in several points:
Lithium-ion batteries dominate the energy storage technology used in e-mobility. Regardless of whether they are manufactured as pouch cells, prismatic batteries or cylindrical round cells, all different battery cells formats are undergoing the same battery module production processes – from income inspection and cell cleaning, to the positioning process with high-precision laser welding and dispenser technology to the final end-of-line inspection and quality assurance.
Precision and High-Speed are prerequisites for high-quality battery assembly.
All manufacturing and testing processes must be stable, reproducible and need to run with a high level of process and repeat accuracy. However, not only the requirements for quality but also for speed are increasing in battery production. The material flow of the highly sensitive transported goods between and to the various work and assembly stations must above all be fast, safe, and collision-free. The reasons for this are that the flammable electrolyte of a lithium-ion battery is extremely sensitive to heat and moisture and to defects triggered by impacts – all of which can lead to explosive fires. Therefore, high-precision and smooth-running intralogistics solutions are required.
When assembling the battery cells into battery modules, the battery cells are first precisely positioned and securely fixed together before being transported to the next work step. Processing times of less than one second per battery cell or several hundred battery cells in a pick-and-place work step are not uncommon.
In addition to a fast transport of battery cells, high speed is also required for conveying those components needed for the installation of cable harnesses, cooling and battery management systems, seals and covers, and for loading and installing the software.
Impact-free transport at high-speed on the monorail
The montrac® conveyor system also scores in terms of high-speed and shock-free transport:
We encounter electrostatic discharge in many everyday situations. Who hasn’t experienced it: while, for example, unsuspectingly touching a door handle after walking for a while with rubber soles on carpet or pulling a synthetic sweater over your head – and yet is getting an ‘electric shock’. This phenomenon is actually a short, high electric shock; so-called electrostatic discharge (ESD). This occurs when a charge is exchanged between two bodies or materials with different voltage potentials, and the electrical voltage suddenly discharges when getting in contact with grounded objects or persons.
While electrostatic discharge is rarely a problem in everyday life, in most cases even minor discharges on electronic components lead to serious quality problems. However, these usually only become apparent after the components have been installed or distributed and thus cause inconsiderable cost problems. For example, statistics in the semiconductor industry show that around 25 percent of components returned as defective are due to ESD damage.
Even small electrostatic discharges can destroy components or pre-damage them to such an extent that they inevitably fail later in use.
Consequently, special ESD protection measures apply in the production of telecommunications and computer technology, industrial and automotive electronics, but also in battery production. In many European countries including Germany, they are defined in the ESD standard "For the protection of electronic components against electrostatic phenomena" as well as in the DIN standard EN 61340-5-1. The measures to be implemented (such as: antistatic and dissipative work surfaces, ESD floor coverings, ESD seating, etc.) are depending on the production environment and the respective construction components used. In addition, guidelines and standards also regulate the necessary ESD training and equipment for employees (such as ESD shoes, ESD clothing, ESD wristbands or ESD tools).
Basically, two approaches apply to industrial production:
a.) Avoid supercharges
b.) Avoid rapid discharges
In battery production, ESD protection is mandatory: therefore, appropriate ESD workstations and insulated tools are used when working with HV battery packs to protect employees and battery cells from the risk of electric shock. Accordingly, the intralogistics systems used in battery production must also be ESD-safe so that neither electrostatic charging nor discharging occurs when transporting the sensitive battery products.
Certified, ESD-safe transport of electronic components with montrac® in the ESD protection area
The intelligent montrac® conveyor system has been audited and ESD-certified according to DIN EN 61340-5-1 - and thus demonstrably operates one hundred percent antistatic. The metrological testing of different montrac® shuttles placed on the monorail and connected to the integrated conductor rail proves that montrac® meets all requirements of the ESD standard "For the protection of electronic components against electrostatic phenomena" as well as the DIN standard EN 61340-5-1. Protective earth conductor connections on the monorail system with integrated busbar guarantee ESD safety.
Thus, montrac® intralogistics solutions not only enable ESD-safe transport of electronic components and other highly sensitive components in battery production, but also simultaneously ensure personal protection in the ESD protection area.