Boosting battery pack production with laser welding and 3D printing

Boosting battery pack production with laser welding and 3D printing

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, or LaserTAB, allows battery cells and power electronics to be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support. This is essential for more efficient production for high volume manufacturing in battery ‘gigafabs’ for eletric vehicles.

The team has built battery modules from 18650-battery cells (see above) contacted by laser-beam microwelding in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Structural Durability and System Reliability LBF in Darmstadt using 3D printed connectors as part of the evTrailer project.

The technique uses a combination of a new light-weight robot developed by Kuka Roboter from Augsburg with an optical sensor and spacer on the collaborating robot (Cobot). This ensures that the optics complies with the distance (focal length) required for the process. The Kuka robot determines when the spacer touches the weld and starts the welding process. In this way the welding points are always held at a constant distance from the lens thanks to the spacer and the sensing robot.

The technique is also being used to improve the  welding of prismatic, round and pouch cells. In a demonstration, the institute combines the two processes of microjoining and 3D printing, showing how a copper contact element can be connected to a round cell via LaserTAB. The Fraunhofer ILT has also developed a specially shaped copper connector, which it manufactures on its own with Selective Laser Melting (SLM), also known as Laser Beam Melting or Laser Powder-Bed Fusion (L-PBF).

This saves the previous, elaborate search of the focus position and the cumbersome positioning of the laser. The spacer also ensures that the focus position does not change during joining and that the connector is pressed against the workpiece or the battery. Elaborate clamping devices are eliminatd or can be less complex.

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