Although much of the innovation associated with lithium-ion batteries in industry has been linked to electric vehicles (EVs), these batteries are increasingly finding use in other industrial applications as well. For example, they are used to power material handling equipment such as forklifts or autonomous mobile robots, pumps installed in remote locations, and hand tools used by shop floor workers.
In many cases, lithium-ion batteries are favored for their high energy density, in addition to the fact that they make use of fewer toxic heavy metals than other battery chemistries such as lead-acid and nickel-cadmium. However, lithium-ion batteries have challenges of their own to surmount. For one, they are still quite costly, partially because of the difficulty of attaining raw materials, such as cobalt, that are required for their production. Moreover, these batteries are sensitive to high temperatures and may overheat, catch fire, or explode in some environments, which hampers their use in industry.
To overcome these issues, Rockwell Automation has partnered with battery producer Cadenza Innovation to develop a customer cloud portal for management of batteries in the field, an end-to-end battery manufacturing execution system, and to provide equipment automation to support the expansion of Cadenza Innovation’s battery manufacturing in the U.S. and abroad.
The companies also plan to create a digital thread from Cadenza’s business systems to its factory floor and out to energy storage systems in the field to bring all data back into Cadenza's connected operations. By collecting data pertaining to use and performance, Cadenza hopes to improve the engineering of future lithium-ion products.
This type of arrangement between original equipment manufacturers and end users is becoming more prevalent as a way of allowing suppliers to gather information about how their products are used in the field, and how that use affects their products’ performance.
Cadenza expects that its partnership with Rockwell will help it produce new products more rapidly—particularly its supercell battery architecture—which involves wrapping individual battery cells within a protective housing. According to Cadenza, this supercell architecture allows safety issues such as thermal runaway to be prevented without incurring excessive costs. The supercell has passed safety testing conducted by the Department of Defense.
“The transition to cleaner forms of energy to combat climate change is well underway. Driven by the global adoption of EVs, utility grid storage, and dozens of other uses, there’s unprecedented demand for rechargeable batteries,” said Christina Lampe-Onnerud, CEO at Cadenza. “Lithium-ion batteries are the only commercially viable, readily available solution to address this need, but the world requires safer, better performing, and lower cost versions. Teaming with…Rockwell Automation enables our companies to help address this global demand, doing so with an emphasis on sustainability.”