Germany’s AgiloBat project seeks flexible battery production in terms of format, material, quantities
Researchers from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), together with partners at the Center for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg (ZSW) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology (ICT) are developing an agile production system for batteries. The German Ministry of Science, Research and Art Baden-Württemberg (MWK) is funding the AgiloBat project with up to €4.5 million. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has announced funding for the next stage of the project with up to €14 million.
The production of powerful and mobile battery cells today forms the backbone of entire economic sectors. However, batteries are now mainly manufactured in Asia and North America.
Especially in the field of electromobility in Germany, we are faced with the question of how we can catch up with the international competition when it comes to battery production as a production site. In the AgiloBat research project, we at KIT are working with our scientific partners on a strong answer: We achieve a technological lead with innovative production systems that, due to their flexibility and openness to technology, meet both the requirements of industry and new findings from basic research can react quickly.—KIT President, Professor Holger Hanselka
Current production systems for battery cells are not able to produce different formats, use different materials or deliver variable quantities. They produce standardized cells, which are of high quality, but are not specifically adapted to customer requirements.
We want to move away from the rigid transfer line towards agile and flexible production systems. As the product lifecycle for individual products is getting shorter and the requirements more and more diverse, the production systems for batteries have to be adapted to these new conditions. In the AgiloBat research project, we will research and develop agile and modular systems under the aspect of integrated product development through parallel product and production system development. Together with our partners, we will build a system for the production of battery cells for flexible formats and material systems.—Professor Jürgen Fleischer, the project manager and head of the Institute for Production Technology (wbk) at KIT
In the AgiloBat research project, a production system for the battery cell of the future is being created: dynamically and flexibly adaptable to different shapes. (Graphic: wbk, KIT)
The procedure in this project is fundamentally different from the established battery production and design. The focus is on a holistically optimized cell—in terms of resources, costs and performance.
The basic idea is to always optimally adapt a battery system to the respective application and the available space. For example, there are completely different requirements for a battery for an electric vehicle than for a battery in a power tool. In the future production process, these requirements will be translated into parameters for battery cells and a suitable battery system made of flexible cells that are optimized for different requirements will be combined. Energy density or quick charging capability can also be variably adjusted in this way.
Intelligent networking and a modular production structure make smaller quantities with custom-made cells for medium-sized companies just as possible as economical production in large series.
A pilot plant for the established lithium-ion technology is being designed, but new material concepts can be quickly integrated into the adaptive production system. These different requirements have a significant impact on the entire production chain and the individual production steps.
The existing process understanding of the individual sub-steps must be expanded so that different cell designs are possible and the individual processing steps are flexible. It is also important to link the individual process steps into an overall process.—Professor Jürgen Fleischer
To meet this complex task, the researchers use modular robot cells with universally applicable process modules, uniform interfaces and a pre-planned scaling concept. The modularly expandable production system also reduces the investment risk, since additional production modules can be installed in stages if necessary.