FCH-02.4-2014 - Robust manufacturing of stationary fuel cells with reduced quality control costs
Specific challenge: The specific challenge is stabilization of manufacturing of processes and automation of quality control automation for stationary fuel cells.
In order to achieve cost levels allowing for mass deployment, stationary fuel cells need further significant cost reductions in their manufacturing. The currently still low production volumes do not allow identifying, improving and validating all factors that influence the robustness and yield of the manufacturing processes on cell, stack and system level. Manual quality control steps represent a significant share of the manufacturing cost.
Production processes need to be stabilised already at the level of pilot manufacturing volumes. In particular stack qualification processes need large improvements to reach required yields and performances, and also significant reduction in investment costs for this kind of equipment.
Quality and process control steps and related equipment need to be adapted, automated and implemented. The stabilisation of manufacturing processes, the implementation of in-line quality and process controls on representative pilot production scale needs to reduce the unitary/marginal cost of quality control for cells, stacks and systems to the long-term cost target.
The objective is to implement and validate those improvements in pilot manufacturing in order to establish the trust base for investors to invest in real-scale mass manufacturing plants.
Along with this, fuel cell components need to be optimized to tolerate larger variations of raw materials, allowing for an increased number of suppliers for raw materials. A significant increase in the number of qualified suppliers will strengthen the competitive position of the European fuel cell industry in general.
Scope: The topic scope includes efforts at process stabilisation in production by process control and improved stack conditioning and qualification, the development of state-of-the-art quality control tools for stack components including cells, interconnects and seals as well as complete stacks.
Means of achieving this can be the transfer of commonly available, touch-less, in-line, fast throughput characterisation methods to fuel cell components manufacturing techniques. Methods include laser and acoustic detection, X-ray screening and others. The development of new, fuel cell specific ad-hoc qualification methods is not included unless they have already reached a TRL of 5 or higher.
All considered methods should reduce the quality control costs at mass manufacturing scale to levels comparable to other similar technologies (e.g. battery). The elaboration of such methods can only be done with components and stacks that are already in pilot production on established lines.
The effectiveness of the quality control process and equipment has to be validated in an established and operating pilot or series manufacturing line for fuel cell stacks or components.
The quality control equipment should be made available for sale on commercial base and a concept for the industrial series manufacturing of the quality control equipment has to be included.
The developed equipment should also enable to monitor closely the tolerance towards variation in raw materials and enable the development of more robust production processes, as well as a broader selection of qualified suppliers.
Expected impact: Break-through cost reduction for quality control steps in the range of one order of magnitude and higher, increased reliability of the produced fuel components and stacks, increased manufacturing capacity by elimination of slow processes already for pilot manufacturing lines.
• Fast characterisation of cells, stacks and systems through dedicated testing
• Constant quality in manufacturing: Overall manufacturing process yield > 95%
• Yield of all single process steps >98%
• Pilot manufacturing line with constant performance on system level
• Sufficient robustness against variations in raw material and processing parameters
Enlarged selection of qualified suppliers