Understanding the entire process chain is crucial in battery projects
6/3/2024 Insights Interview

Understanding the entire process chain is crucial in battery projects

Even though electromobility in Germany has been weak recently, the demand for battery masses is growing steadily and the plants are getting bigger and bigger. Coperion builds the systems for the production of battery moulds. At POWTECH 2023, Knut Hilgert explained the advantages of continuous processes compared to batch production and the role that extrusion plays in this.

Portrait picture of Knut Hilgert Coperion offers complete systems for the continuous production of battery masses from a single source
Coperion offers complete systems for the continuous production of battery masses from a single source.

Industry Insights: Mechanical process engineering and plant engineering are at the centre of the production of battery masses. Where do you see challenges here and which solutions are expedient from Coperion's point of view?

Hilgert: The challenge for European plant engineering clearly lies in the basic understanding of the systems of the entire battery manufacturing process chain. This begins with the refining of the raw materials through the production process of the cathode and anode active materials as the starting materials for the battery masses, and ends with battery cell production in the so-called giga-factory. In the past, the mixing of the battery masses in the giga-factory was realised exclusively by batch processes, but this has many disadvantages for the large quantities required. Coperion provides comprehensive support to battery manufacturers by offering complete systems for the continuous production of battery masses from a single source. This means that we take over all steps from the receipt of the base materials in the Gigafactory to the transfer to the coating and drying process. Our portfolio also includes solutions for upstream production steps such as the refining of raw materials and the production of cathode and anode active materials. Of course, we also create containment concepts to protect employees from toxic substances.

Industry Insights: The term "gigafactory" already implies the orders of magnitude involved. How do you relieve the burden on battery manufacturers, who often do not have the expertise to coordinate the plant construction trades themselves?

Hilgert: Coperion offers everything needed for a project from a single source. With our own planning, engineering and process expertise as well as our own key components, we can propose individual plant concepts and realise them safely and economically.

The ZSK extruder is the central element in the continuous production of battery masses.

Industry Insights: What specific solutions are you currently focussing on?

Hilgert: If we look at the mixing of the battery masses, our suggestion is to use a co-rotating twin-screw extruder. Extrusion technology is an excellent alternative to batch processes and is unavoidable when it comes to continuous processes. Higher throughputs with lower energy requirements and a significantly smaller footprint are possible, which leads to better overall efficiency. Extruders are also the ideal solution for formulations with a high solids content. This makes it possible to reduce the solvent content in order to shorten the drying time or to switch to pure dry mixing, i.e. mixing without any liquid content, which is currently a clear trend. The continuous process also enables flexible adjustment of the ingredients and the realisation of inline quality control. This means that deviations in product quality can be corrected quickly.

Industry Insights: We are still dealing with relatively new technologies in battery production, but these need to be transferred to a large scale as soon as they have been developed. What is Coperion's approach to this?

Hilgert: In my view, that's not a major problem. We are familiar with this at Coperion from many areas of industry. I see the biggest challenge in system integration, process integration and the project management of complete turnkey plants. Coperion has many years of experience in large-scale plant construction, which is of benefit to us here.


Armin Scheuermann

Armin Scheuermann

Chemical engineer and freelance specialised journalist