Increasing interest in renewable energy and sustainability are driving demand for a range of new battery-powered products, and it’s causing battery demand to soar, with the battery value chain expected to increase tenfold by 2030. In parallel, manufacturers are starting to reshape their global supply chains to solve many challenges they’ve been navigating over the last few years. This includes a renewed focus on establishing manufacturing operations in the U.S. to reduce dependence on complex, highly distributed supply chains.
To build new U.S. facilities effectively and efficiently – and scale production quickly to meet rising battery demand – manufacturers will need to leverage intelligent automation solutions that enable adaptability, flexibility, and resiliency.
Why Battery Module Manufacturing is Moving
Battery manufacturers investing in new factories in the U.S. are doing so to manage global supply chain risks such as transportation delays, geopolitical instability, and regulatory requirements. However, there’s even more incentive to move production to the U.S.
The recently enacted Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, arguably the most significant climate legislation in U.S. history, includes billions in subsidies for manufacturers of fuel-efficient vehicles and components (including EV batteries) who embrace building localized supply chains. Specifically, the legislation makes available federal loans, tax credits, and grants, which help offset the investments required for manufacturing in the U.S. With these incentives, many are already embracing the idea of producing in North America—big names like Tesla, General Motors (GM), and Panasonic have all announced U.S. production plans.
Financial incentives through the U.S. government and growth in the local EV battery market present an opportunity for manufacturers to reexamine their operations. Intelligent automation solutions enable manufacturers to take advantage of these tailwinds and build new, modern factories that enable rapid and cost-effective deployment.
Automating Assembly with Intelligent Technology
Bright Machines Microfactories can be programmed to carry out different tasks for different products, are easily changed to accommodate new instructions, and are reconfigurable and reusable. This level of flexibility allows manufacturers to build smart factories to scale production based on demand, ensuring they don’t make too much or too little of a product. They can also quickly pivot to a new product if the market changes.
The process of assembling battery modules includes inspecting and sorting individual battery cells, arranging them into a module, and welding their terminals to form the circuits required. Microfactories can be configured to automate all the assembly steps to form a nearly touchless line or can focus on one of the process steps. For example, let’s consider battery modules that are made using 18650 cells. To make a battery module that uses 80 of these cells, three human operators could do the polarity alignment and cell insertion steps for about 60 modules per hour, whereas a microfactory with one robotic cell could accomplish the equivalent work. If running three shifts, the microfactory approach would be an estimated 80-90% lower cost than the human operator approach.
Automating the battery module assembly process will dramatically increase throughput and significantly cut production costs—targets that manufacturers will be aiming for as an investment in U.S. factories increases.