Cell cases are an important part of the construction of the battery cell. They do not only contain the electrodes of the battery but also give the cell strength for forces from outside. In the future the expectation is that the cases will grow in significance in the overall construction of a complete car. Potentially the need for complete packs will decrease and the installation of individual cells in electrical vehicles will grow.
In the meanwhile the cases are of course subject for investigation regarding the reducing of costs of the whole battery. Although the share of the cost price for a battery is minimal, every penny which can be saved contributes to a bigger market share of individual producers and the battery as an alternative to other energy systems.
Mass production of cell cases will increase and different kind of technologies will be used depending on the battery type (cylindrical vs prismatic) and the material (mostly nickel plated steel vs aluminium). Since the design of batteries will change over the coming years and more types of batteries become available, the production of cell cases should be flexible and high productive. Normally these two are not easy to combine in one production line, but new information technology will be able to build mass production lines with a wide range of potential sizes and kinds. Also the production of different materials over one production line will be possible as we already can see in other industries like the can industry. In this industry for example they combine magnetic handling of steel products with vacuum and air technology to handle aluminium products. In some cases moving aluminium products can be even slowed down by magnets.
Most processes in the common can manufacturing are based on mass flow of products through the production line where individual products are able to touch each other. When equipment in the production line is requesting a single lane infeed these mass flows are brought back to single lane just to enable the product to access the next process step. In most cases however in these solutions the products are touching each other as well. In (future) battery production lines this touching of individual cells, neither in mass or single conveying, may not be acceptable. Therefore the new production and/or handling of cell cases need new developments which enables mass production, mass flows and conversion from mass to single and back without cases hitting each other. This gentle handling of cases in mass production circumstances is the challenge.
The answer to this problem is maybe coming from smart conveying which for now looks to contain conveying of individual cases in holders. The disadvantages are however still big because single conveying takes more (floor)space, is more expensive, requires returning conveyors for holders and makes the increase of OEE in absence of enough accumulation problematic. Tracking and tracing possibilities and overall quality in absence of scratches will justify to install the installation of these smart conveyors, but we need the best of both worlds here. So far robotic handling of cases and conveying in trays in specific circumstances seems to join the best of these two handling technologies where mass handling is seeking more opportunities to enable traceability and avoiding scratching.