Robert Bosch backs flexible substrate power startup

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

Robert Bosch Venture Capital (RBVC) in Germany has backed a US startup developing flexible substrate technology that can handle signficant amounts of power.

The corporate venture capital company of the Bosch Group joined in the $22.5m B round of funding for CelLink in San Carlos, California, which develops and produces a lightweight and low-cost flexible substrate for power electronics using a proprietary combination of manufacturing processes, design and materials. BMW i-Ventures and Ford also backed the company.

“We are excited about CelLink’s progress with its product portfolio since our initial seed investment,” said Dr. Ingo Ramesohl, managing director of RBVC. “The team has developed battery pack applications for electric vehicles and eBikes which are of high relevance for Bosch as the company aims to lead the mass market for electromobility.” The new funding is aimed at ramping up CelLink’s production to meet significant customer demand across the company’s three primary markets of vehicle wiring, battery pack interconnects, and LED lighting.

CelLink’s circuits allow simplified wiring designs with optimal electrical and thermal performance through a mixture of design and materials. This enables significant reductions in volume and weight over existing wiring technologies. For vehicle wiring, CelLink’s technology can provide up to 70 percent weight reduction and up to 90 percent volume reduction by replacing round wire bundles with flat flexible circuits. These savings have the potential to power widespread adoption across next-generation electrical systems.

Printed and flexible electric circuits make up a $60bn market in consumer electronics, but manufacturers have not been able to address the power electronics market because the fabrication process cannot be scaled to produce large area or highly conductive circuits. CelLink’s ability to manufacture larger and more conductive circuits allows the company to target this rapidly growing market, which includes wiring for vehicles, LED lighting, battery packs, and solar cells.

Next: Scaling up flexible substrate production of power circuits

The new round of funding will be used to scale up existing mass production contracts in these primary markets and transition several projects from product development to full-scale production. In the long-term, CelLink believes its technology can scale to applications in aerospace and commercial vehicles.

CelLink was set up by serial entrepreneur Kevin Coakley who previously founded ThinSilicon, which was acquired by China Solar Power. This funding round has also grown CelLink’s base of investors as well as strengthened connections with previous investors like RBVC. “As one of CelLink’s earliest investors, RBVC has been a tremendous resource for our company in critical technical areas such as high-volume manufacturing and high-speed data transmission,” said Coakley. “In addition, RBVC has provided valuable introductions to many of our key automotive customers and partners in Europe,” he said.


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