Enhanced functionality and lower prices are driving up consumer demand for electric vehicles (EVs). However, EV manufacturers are struggling to meet this rise in demand. The supply chain for electric vehicle batteries is still young and developing, and this is a major bottleneck. To address this demand-supply mismatch, this paper proposes a robotic work cell design for the efficient mass production of EV battery modules.
It's possible that after a century of making cars, automakers have the process down to a science. To a large extent, the automobile's fundamental design has not changed significantly over this time period. In particular, the mechanical energy needed to propel a car has come from internal combustion engines fueled by fossil fuels. Nonetheless, the automotive industry has no background in assembling EV batteries and appears to be struggling with producing them in sufficient quantities.
The fact that each automaker uses its own proprietary battery pack design and that EV batteries are still mostly assembled by hand are both indicators of the early stage at which the battery supply chain for electric vehicles is currently operating. It's likely that the lack of standardized and automated EV battery assembly processes is due to the focus on finding solutions to the many problems that EV batteries have encountered, such as safety, low energy density, high cost, and large size and weight. We highlight the urgent need to automate and standardize EV battery assembly into a reliable, flexible, efficient process that yields high quality EV batteries at scale as battery technology moves beyond these limitations to become a viable alternative.
The battery supply chain has seen a spike in demand due to the rising popularity of electric vehicles (EVs). Rapid and dependable assembly options made possible by robotic automation are attracting manufacturers' attention as a means to close the supply-demand gap. Okay, but how exactly do robots help us? And what is the most efficient way to employ them here?
The Benefits of Automating Tasks with Robots in the Battery Industry
Process Bulky Tray Assemblies
In most cases, robotic automation is the best option for constructing trays, as these assemblies are typically quite large and heavy. In some cases, the battery tray for a vehicle can be as big as six feet by eight feet, and as heavy as nearly 300 pounds. Due to the bulk and size of these components and the need for strategic placement of the battery, the use of robots is recommended.
Support a number of processes at once
Many processes, such as flow drilling metal, GMAW (Gas Metal Arc Welding), and RSW (Resistance Spot Welding), are involved in the production of a battery tray assembly (Resistance Spot Welding). Aluminum alloys are widely used by the automotive industry for lightweighting (reducing vehicle component weight to improve fuel economy), which in turn has increased the demand for non-traditional welding techniques such as Henrob self-piercing riveting, fixed and remote laser welding, and hybrid laser welding. Robotic machining may also be required, depending on the assembly tray's cast design.
Build a More Secure Office
Several of the aforementioned uses pose risks to human workers. It is recommended that robots be used for tasks that could be harmful to humans, such as the heavy and repetitive lifting of parts and the inhalation of toxic fumes during the adhesive dispensing process. Robotic automation of these tasks has the added benefit of freeing up humans to focus on more value-added tasks, such as path programming, quality inspection, or technical support.
Which Robots Work Best in the Battery Sector?
Robots with Power, Streamlining, and Extra Reach
The GP280L is a six-axis heavy payload robot with a long reach, good rigidity, and a reduced interference design, making it ideal for flow drilling applications, Henrob self-piercing riveting, and other machining tasks.
Multipurpose, High-Efficiency Robots
Having a strong six-axis robot with a compact build, quick axis speeds, and high moment of inertia ratings is useful for material handling tasks or adhesive and sealant dispensing applications. Despite the fact that the required robot payload is determined by the size of the part, the GP180, GP225, and GP400 are the most commonly used robots for these tasks in the battery industry.
Use of a GP50, GP88, or GP110 robot could be beneficial in certain laser applications such as 2D scanning, fixed optics, and laser cutting. These compact robots not only have long reach capabilities but also high repeatability (depending on requirements).
Welding robots that are highly dependable, powerful, and efficient
Rapid servo wing (RSW) operations benefit from the use of a high-speed six-axis robot with extremely fast axis speeds and acceleration, which allows for faster air-cut times. The SP-series line of robots includes several models that boast features like a spot harness for optimized wrist flexibility and decreased downtime, a slim profile for high-density spacing and reaching into tight spaces, and a wide wrist motion range for eliminating interference.
For resistance spot welding, GP180 and GP225 robots are on the rise. In this way, a single robot can be used (with different outfits) for dispensing, material handling, and other manufacturing tasks. Better returns can be achieved thanks to increased competitiveness, which is made possible by this (ROI).
The six-axis AR-series robots are recommended for GMAW applications because they have the highest payload, fastest speed, and highest wrist allowable moment. Robots designed specifically for a given task like this one boost productivity and quality in a given industry by maximizing the efficiency with which a given task is performed. The advanced capabilities of certain welding power sources can be fully exploited by AR-series robots thanks to their compatibility with the straightforward Universal Weldcom Interface (UWI) pendant application.
The Next Step Towards Success
In order to get the most out of their robots, manufacturers should contact a robot supplier or integrator once they have a solid grasp on product design. Talking to an expert can help decision-makers get a better grasp of the big picture and the steps involved in meeting demand at scale.