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PEMFC system manufacturing technologies and quality assurance

This topic addresses process development of critical steps of PEMFC system manufacturing, including the production of component engineering samples. The fuel cell stack and stack component manufacturing is explicitly excluded from this topic since it is addressed in topic FCH-01.1-2016. The overall process chain must be considered for sake of the analysis of cycle time, covering the complete value chain including the development of inline non-destructive control tools in order to reduce the amount of defected components. Potential project proposals should have the main focus on the development of manufacturing technologies specific to PEMFC system and system components for transport applications. Demonstrations of full pilot lines are excluded.

The scope of this topic is to enable established PEMFC OEMs and component suppliers in the fuel cell industry to implement technologies enabling the step-up from small scale production towards higher volumes (50,000 systems/year in 2020) which will result in the reduced cost of PEMFC technologies. The topic should also develop simpler tooling/ manufacturing technologies, making it easier for other players to enter the PEMFC system component industry, thus expanding and making the component supplier base more robust and competitive.

The scope of this topic is, moreover, to focus on improving the system production processes with respect to cost, cycle time and quality. Proposals should focus on developing high volume manufacturing technologies, modifying system components for improved manufacturability as well as quality assurance. System components such as compressors, heat exchangers, actuators and sensors should be the focus of the proposal. Critical bottlenecks in the fuel cell system assembly, e.g. end-of-line testing can also be addressed.

The successful consortium must show evidence that critical bottlenecks specifically related to the fuel cell system and system component manufacturing are addressed. The minimum TRL for fuel cell systems and system components is 5.

Projects should achieve at least a manufacturing readiness level, MRL of 7* (Capability to produce systems, subsystems or components in a production representative environment) at project end, starting from a MRL of 5 (Capability to produce prototype components in a production relevant environment).

To demonstrate advancement with respect to the state-of-the-art on four critical parameters: cycle time, manufacturing cost, yield and reliability of the production process, project proposals are expected to cover the following top-level objectives:

  • Development of manufacturing technologies, beyond state of the art, specific to the PEMFC system production processes, equipment and tools
  • Transpose established automotive industry best practices on production and quality to the manufacturing of PEMFC system and system components, such as (but not limited to) lean manufacturing, Kaisen, six sigma
  • Identification of bottleneck processes in system or system component production lines
  • Identification and revision of critical sub-processes (e.g. low yield/high cost)
  • Improvement, modification, adaptation or even new development of at least two critical system or system component production steps
  • Integration of inline non-destructive quality control tools
  • Adaptation of system and/or system components design to optimize manufacturability
  • Development of QA strategies relevant for the transport sector compatible with ISO/TS 16949

The FCH 2 JU considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of EUR 3 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected duration: 3-4 years

A maximum of 2 projects may be funded under this topic.

*For more information on the use of MRL in this topic, please see Section 3.3 Call management rules

Currently, most fuel cell systems and their key components are produced in small quantities, often with considerable manual input and not optimized for low cycle times implying the corresponding high production cost and quality deficits. The core components are currently niche products with high complexity to produce and industry has little at-scale manufacturing experience. In order to achieve cost levels allowing for market deployment, fuel cell systems need further significant cost reductions in several areas including development, manufacturing, tooling and assembling. However, today, low production volumes – sometimes on a prototype level – do not provide the economical drive for the identification, improvement and validation of all factors that influence the robustness and yield of the manufacturing processes at system level.

Expected impacts of the project include:

  • Taking into account the KPIs achieved within the project, such as yield, cycle time and production capacity, demonstrate through simulation that with the improvements in the production process and product, the PEMFC system production can be increased from few 100 units/year up to 50.000 units/year in 2020, for a total power range about 5 MW per year with a single line.
  • Produce and validate engineering samples of the improved design for manufacturability of at least one relevant component, including its product validation.
  • Validate in hardware, with cycle time measurement, cost analysis and statistical evaluation, the performance of the improved system or system component production steps.
  • Validate the performance of the full system (or system component) production in an existing production line upgraded with the optimized process steps.
  • Achieve components yields > 95% for the improved system component production steps
  • Feedback the project results into future system component development.