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Liminal launches automated system for battery inspection in manufacturing

Liminal, a specialist in electric vehicle battery manufacturing intelligence, has launched its EchoStat platform, a fully-automated commercial-ready manufacturing inspection solution based on ultrasound and machine learning.

Scheduled to be fully operational in 2023, this in-process inspection innovation is a groundbreaking, critical advancement toward helping EV battery manufacturers achieve the accelerated production ramp rates and cost reduction required to catalyze EV adoption at scale.

EchoStat’s core technology has been validated across 50 different cell types by six EV OEMs and seven cell manufacturers.

Anders Thor, director of communications at Northvolt, says: “We see potential in the automated EchoStat platform, enabling in-process control of saturation quality and prediction of cell performance and cycle life. The in-line inspection solution provides opportunities to improve manufacturing efficiency, saving resource, cost and time.”

EchoStat is characterized by its modular, chemistry-agnostic, and non-destructive inspection process. Its inspection equipment and data analytics seamlessly integrate into cell production lines and factory automation systems allowing EchoStat customers to perform inspections at multiple points along their manufacturing process at speeds exceeding 20 parts per minute.

Andrew Hsieh, Liminal co-founder and CEO, says: “Our automated system can predict cell performance with 85 percent or greater accuracy.

“During end-of-line QC, our new platform is more than 95 percent faster than existing electrochemical tests and can speed up quality assurance checks from more than a week to as little as a couple of minutes with the same result.”

Hsieh says: “Currently, the industry relies on the same basic tools, data, and methods to ensure battery quality and reliability as are used for cell phone batteries.

“This is despite EV batteries being orders of magnitude larger, being produced at vastly larger scales, and requiring much greater levels of performance and reliability than cell phone batteries.”

Under pressure to rapidly transition to EVs, quality control and reliability have been significant challenges for automakers. Recalls from GM, BMW, and Jaguar’s recent battery recalls have cost the automakers and their suppliers upwards of $3 billion in the past year.

Hsieh says: “The industry desperately needs new and better data throughout cell manufacturing, along with advanced analytics to intelligently use that data.

“At Liminal, we see an opportunity to elevate in-process testing beyond simply pass/fail, and instead to leverage rich, multi-dimensional data throughout manufacturing to enable more efficient, reliable production of high-performance EV batteries.”

Hsieh adds: “EV batteries are not commodities. They are premium, high-performance products that are the beating heart of an electric vehicle and therefore require equally high-performance inspection systems. EV adoption will be driven by better quality batteries made possible by advanced inspection techniques.”

With predictions of battery shortages and skyrocketing costs of lithium (450 percent increase last year according to S&P Global) poised to fuel fights between automakers, a non-destructive battery intelligence solution that helps cell manufacturers speed up production, increase output, and improve reliability will be vital to stay competitive.

James Frith, principal at Volta Energy Technologies and former head of energy storage at BloombergNEF, says: “Soaring raw material costs have already led to higher battery prices; manufacturing innovations present a key tool to help mitigate further price rises.

“Liminal’s EchoStat quality control solution provides a novel way to reduce scrap rates and inefficiencies during manufacturing, which will help to ensure a sufficient supply of cells that meet the cost and reliability requirements of mass-market EVs.”

Liminal is in active product evaluations with several major cell manufacturers and auto OEMs. The development of EchoStat automated solutions for battery manufacturing production lines is well under way and is currently available for pouch and prismatic cells.

Cylindrical cell inspection solutions will be available in the near future. A limited number of production-scale validation partners will be accepted in 2023; interested partners are encouraged to inquire promptly.

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