Fieldbus & Industrial Networking

Data-driven battery production

February 2024 Fieldbus & Industrial Networking

The availability of high-performance batteries at moderate prices is one of the most important factors for the success of electromobility. Short innovation cycles and increasing competition are major challenges for battery manufacturers and automobile manufacturers, which above all require flexible, digitised production lines − and automation companies that support digital transformation with their solutions and thus enable modular, variable plant concepts. As a long-standing automation partner to the automotive industry, Turck Banner supports the major battery manufacturers with its know-how.

Electromobility is one of the most significant trends in the automotive industry worldwide. More and more automakers are turning to electric cars to reduce the CO2 emissions of their vehicle fleets. The efficient production of battery cells is of crucial importance for the success of electromobility. For this reason, they are increasingly positioning themselves as battery manufacturers alongside major suppliers. It is true that the production of car batteries is currently still concentrated in Asia. In recent years, however, Western companies have also invested in building up their own battery production capacities.

Short innovation cycles

The processes and technologies for the production of battery cells will further develop in the coming years. Whether they are new raw materials, modified mixing and coating processes, or different processes for calendering and winding, there will always be changes. If battery cell manufacturers want to prepare existing and future production plants for this dynamic phase, and for significantly shortened innovation cycles, they need powerful automation partners who support digital transformation with their solutions, and thus enable modular, flexible plant concepts.

With its robust portfolio, Turck has been one of the most important automation partners for the automotive industry around the globe for several decades. Today, the most successful battery manufacturers also rely on Turck technology, and design their production plants to be flexible and future-proof with data-driven process optimisation.

Three loading columns for production efficiency

For example, contactless RFID identification technology helps to increase the output of existing plants, while at the same time improving process reliability and product quality. Condition monitoring solutions reveal problems at an early stage and thus enable predictive maintenance measures, which permanently increase the availability and the overall efficiency of a plant. Above all, decentralised automation technology with robust IP67 systems, without control cabinets, facilitates the construction of modular production plants for later regrouping of machines or relocation of capacities.

Traceability: The energy density of batteries can be compared to explosives. Faulty batteries can be quite dangerous and risky. Production that tracks and documents every raw material, every product, and every production step guarantees battery cells of the highest quality. Error-free production can be proven by track-and-trace systems in cases of doubt. Turck has almost 20 years of experience with HF and UHF RFID solutions in the production environment. Hardly any other automation supplier can offer such a comprehensive RFID range or unique technologies such as HF bus mode.

Overall equipment effectiveness: The costs of a product and the profitability of a production process depend heavily on the availability of its production equipment. This is another reason why increasing the overall efficiency of equipment is a key goal in battery manufacturing. The goals are to minimise unplanned machine downtime and eliminate material bottlenecks. Turck automation technology enables you to master both challenges. You can monitor machine states extensively to plan predictive maintenance, while RFID identification technology improves your database for material procurement.

Flexibility: The number of battery cell types is also increased with the different battery applications. Currently-built production equipment should therefore be prepared for future adaptions, both mechanically and in terms of automation. Modular plant concepts are the road to greater flexibility. Decentralised I/O and control solutions in IP67, combined with flexible and fast Industrial Ethernet communication, allow plant modules to be quickly rearranged. Controlled by decentralised PLCs and safety controllers, factory acceptance tests on new plant modules can already be carried out at the manufacturer, thus shortening commissioning in the plant at the user’s site.

The following application examples show how Turck supports battery manufacturers with its solutions.

IO-Link fluid sensors monitor calendering

Calendering is one of the most critical process steps when manufacturing lithium ion battery cells. In this process, several rotating and heated roller pairs compress the copper foil (anode) and aluminum foil (cathode) coated on both sides. The film is then rolled up again and transferred to the next process step. The hydraulically-driven roller pairs generate a precisely defined pressure that must be maintained at all times. Any deviation from this value leads to a deterioration in the quality, and thus the performance, of the battery cells. Excessive pressure can even damage the substrate.

A complete IO-Link solution, consisting of sensors and suitable infrastructure, monitors the interaction of all process components and guarantees optimum calendering. Turck’s TBEN-L4-8IOL is used as the IO-Link master. The compact multiprotocol I/O module provides eight IO-Link master channels and is installed in the control cabinet. The robust pressure and temperature sensors of Turck’s Fluid+ series are installed inside the hydraulics in the plant, and capture and monitor the measured values in battery production. The PS+ pressure sensors ensure optimum and constant pressure so that the substrate is provided with an even surface structure and the required porosity. The TS+ temperature sensors not only monitor the temperature of rollers but also the liquid used to heat the rollers. IO-Link enables easy parameterisation and commissioning, and also any device replacement in battery production. Empty rollers have to be detected in time to be replaced, in order to prevent an unplanned production stop. This requires a complete measurement of the roller diameter with Turck’s RU80D ultrasonic sensors.

HF bus mode ensures quality of lithium-ion batteries

When assembling battery modules from individual cells, the cells are welded to an aluminum strip that connects them together. The quality of the weld spots is vital to ensuring the quality of the finished battery. Therefore, the entire module is tested after welding. The result of the test is written directly in the tag located under the product carrier of the module. In total, the production line comprises about 35 read/write positions, which can be quite expensive with standard RFID systems. RFID via IO-Link would be an alternative, but is usually too slow due to the low bandwidth.

With Turck’s HF bus mode, up to 32 read/write devices can be connected in series to a single port of the RFID interface, significantly reducing the cost per read/write position. The production line can maintain its original speed because bus operations offer a relatively high bandwidth. Another advantage is that every read/write head can read both EPROM and FRAM tags, which are both used on these production lines. Tag reading is triggered by an inductive sensor. If multiple tags are present in the air interface of different read/write heads simultaneously, the PLC creates a buffer to execute the commands at the different read/write heads one after the other. The trigger sensor also helps to detect errors. If the read/write head cannot read a tag after it has been triggered by the sensor, this indicates that the tag is faulty. RFID devices and trigger sensors are connected directly to the TBEN-S2-2RFID-4DXP. The IP67 interface communicates with the PLC via Profinet. However, as a multi-protocol device, it can also be easily used in Ethernet/IP or Modbus TCP networks without user intervention.

RFID tracking with OPC UA

Since the production steps are not managed by a PLC or a control system in many production plants, but are created directly in the ERP system, identification systems must communicate directly with the ERP system to secure the production process. OPC UA is proven to be the ideal communication interface for this purpose. This standard is both a communication protocol and semantics for processing production-relevant data. OPC UA is ‘understood’ by IT systems, and by compatible machines and systems of the OT.

Since RFID communication in metallic environments can be prone to errors due to possible reflections, special data carriers for mounting on metal guarantee reliable identification processes. In this application, only the ID of the tag is read out in order to then assign the correct information via a database. As a full-range supplier, Turck offers a seamless system from tags to read/write devices and connection cables, to RFID interfaces, right through to qualified support. Communication problems caused by multivendor solutions in the system can thus be reliably prevented.

For more information contact Turck Banner, +27 11 453 2468, [email protected],


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