23 Feb 2022
Photonics firms enabling “electromobility” highlight focused meetings at returning Munich expo in April.LASER World of Photonics event organizer Messe München, this week: “These technologies facilitate the efficient production of batteries, fuel cells and electric engines, and guarantee both effective lightweight design and safety with automated driving.”
Electromobility is coming to LASER World of Photonics, which runs from April 26th to 29th. Considering the recently-announced battery projects around Europe, alone, shows that there are almost 40 cell factories in twelve countries – with a total capacity of 1,200 gigawatt hours (GWh) set to be delivered by 2030. Factories for fuel cells to ensure long-distance mobility with hydrogen as the energy source, are also under construction.
Along with this transformation of the drive systems, automotive manufacturers are also focusing on lightweight design. Moreover, vehicle networking and automated driving are also making enormous progress, stated Messe München.
Laser processes and photonics play a key role in all innovation areas and LASER exhibitors can provide the required stimuli in this field. The bipolar plates used to build fuel cell stacks, for example, are welded and formed with laser processes from Trumpf, Precitec, Blackbird or Raylase.
Companies such as Zeiss or 4D Photonics support process monitoring, while teams from the Fraunhofer Institutes for Laser Technology (ILT), Production Technology (IPT), Telecommunications (HHI) and Material and Beam Technology (IWS), all exhibitors, are further developing the required laser processes.
As the fuel cell market moves up a gear, solutions for battery production are also booming. Trumpf reports they have tripled in just three years. The company delivers laser technology to all major battery manufacturers, with over 500 laser [installations] projected for the first six months of 2022.
More than half of all automotive revenue here is from solutions for electromobility. Laser processes now have a firm foothold in both cell, module and battery production and in the manufacturing of electric motors and power electronics, said Messe München.
As the energy input in the process can be controlled precisely, lasers ensure clean cutting edges and weld seams, with minimum mechanical and thermal stress on the surrounding areas. They also deliver more efficient and therefore cost-cutting processes.
Welding and cutting
The wide-ranging repertoire of photonic solutions is most evident with copper cutting and welding. The reflective non-ferrous metal is omnipresent in electric vehicles as micrometer-thin anode material. For connecting battery cells and modules. In the electric motors and power electronics.
But due to insufficient absorption, infrared laser light, commonplace in laser processing, reaches its limits here. Coherent solves the problem with the aid of the ARM (Adjustable Ring Mode) strategy. The fiber laser’s processing spot is surrounded by a light ring, which precisely increases the absorption in the processing area.
The process consequently runs swiftly and spatter-free. Laserline and Raylase achieve this result with blue diode lasers and precise deflection units. As copper absorbs blue light much better, speedy multikilowatt processes are possible. TRUMPF on the other hand uses the green, also well-absorbed light of its disk lasers to weld the non-ferrous metal.
Short-pulse lasers are often used for cutting the micrometer-thin copper and aluminum films of electrodes. Lasers are also required for drying electrode films that have just been coated with active material. Trumpf replaces bulky energy- intensive ovens with semiconductor VCSELs here. Laserline and the Fraunhofer Institutes for Laser Technology (ILT) and for Production Technology (IPT) also focus on energy-efficient drying per laser.
New laser processes
Exhibitors such as Scanlab, Scansonic or IPG Photonics have also evolved into electromobility enablers with their recent production solutions. Along with their concepts for efficiency improvement, production-related quality assurance is also critical in reducing battery costs.
Providers such as Zeiss, Keyence or Mahr, which, with imaging, analytical and metrological processes, can ensure that the electrode films are coated homogeneously and uniformly and that electric motors, bipolar plates and the increasingly more densely packed power electronics comply with the required quality parameters.
Their solutions then allow developers the required deep microscopic and spectroscopic insights, on the basis of which they can optimize battery chemistry and the assembly of anodes, cathodes and separators. Photonics also provide pivotal impulses for the production-related handling of fiber-reinforced plastics and for durable bondings between the most diverse metals and plastics of a multi-material lightweight design.
A consortium of the LASER exhibitors neoLASE, Coherent, Sill Optics, Primes and LZH, have recently developed an innovative diode laser for this with nine individually controllable laser spots. The temperature in the weld seam can therefore be regulated depending on the local thickness and quality of the material and the required weld seam geometry. The team succeeded in firmly bonding pre-laser structured metals with plastics. In another project the Fraunhofer IPT developed energy-efficient processes for new fiber composites, cold hardened under UV irradiation.