H&T Battery Components Development Center for Prismatic Battery Cans, based at Crimmitschau, Germany, has been awarded a subsidy by the Sächsische Aufbaubank (SAB). We meet with Dr. Norbert Pierschel, Head of the Development Center in Crimmitschau, to discuss the grant and how it will be utilized.
Pictured: Dr. Norbert Pierschel
Hello Norbert. Your division successfully applied for a subsidy scheme with SAB (Sächsische Aufbaubank – Förderbank, a bank that is inter alia supporting development projects in Saxony). Can you tell us a little bit about the application process and why H&T Battery Components applied?
The idea to apply came up in conversation in April last year. We sat down as a team and wrote our application, where we had to describe the whole project including project targets and what the project would be utilized for in the future.
H&T Battery Components wants to provide the ability to react to customers demand for prototyping as well as having the ability to ramp up production when required and being able to supply components to our customer’s facilities for the start of their production phase.
In addition to this, we wanted to install a production line where we can test and develop new technologies and create a blueprint for manufacturing lines that can be placed at Crimmitschau or at our customer’s sites.
What products can the manufacturing line produce and why are they different to the current products you manufacture?
The line will be able to produce a wide range of prismatic battery housing formats (canisters or cans), both small and large to suit the market needs. The battery canisters will be manufactured from aluminium sheet metal by deep-drawing technology.
We are currently producing samples of the prismatic cans in small volumes in a fairly manual production process. Eventually the pilot line will represent all the manufacturing process steps needed to produce the canisters in high volumes and there will be a high level of automation on the line.
How is the project progressing and what is the timeline for completion?
We started the project in July 2019 and we focussed on developing the product. The first steps were to develop the forming process and create our tooling requirements. Once that was done we began to produce our first prismatic battery can samples. There was a lot of development at this stage to ensure the samples we were manufacturing met our specification both in tolerances and quality.
We began to develop the pilot line in 2020 and we are now finalising the final concept. We expect the first presses to be installed in to Crimmitschau by quarter 3 in 2021 with SOP planned for the beginning of 2022.
How has being part of the larger Heitkamp & Thumann Group helped with this project?
Being part of the Heitkamp & Thumann Group has been crucial to the project, and really shows the benefits of the Group. The tooling we have used for the project came of course from our own tool shop in Crimmitschau at H&T ProduktionsTechnologie as well as from our sister company H&T Tool Design in Marsberg. Our Battery teams in Marsberg, Waterbury and Nevada have provided project, design and development support. The presses for the line will also be an H&T internal development and manufactured at H&T ProduktionsTechnologie. All in all it has been a real team effort.
How will this investment benefit the Crimmitschau site and H&T Battery Components Division as a whole?
Crimmitschau is home to our prismatic battery development center and this development is an important step for H&T Battery Components to building up our capacities in the growing EV battery cell market.
The pilot line we are building will enable our engineers to investigate and develop new technologies for the mass production of mainly prismatic battery cans. This development work shows that H&T Battery Components has the ability to react to market developments and adapt for future manufacturing needs.
Crimmitschau as a site is perfectly located to support the growing EV battery cell production market, especially within this region of Germany.
If the line is successful what are the next steps in the project?
The purpose of the line is to achieve proof of concept with the final target being mass production. The next steps will be to take the pilot line as the blueprint for future mass production lines either at Crimmitschau or our customer’s sites. Moreover, we want to provide first smaller prismatic can volumes to our customers in Europe as soon as possible.
Finally Norbert, what has been the biggest challenge for you personally on this project and if you could do it again is there anything you would do differently?
The project is very complex so it has been a challenge to manage so many different technologies. Of course we have had issues, like any major product, but I see it more as a learning curve and ensuring we get to the correct solution. Development work, as anyone in R&D will tell you, is a continuous journey of failings, learnings and ultimately leading to successes and the best solutions. I am glad to have experienced this journey with so many knowledgeable colleagues and to be at this good stage that we are in now. There are exciting months ahead of us.