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Future European Fuel Cell Technology: Fit for Automatic Manufacturing and Assembly

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - Fit-4-AMandA (Future European Fuel Cell Technology: Fit for Automatic Manufacturing and Assembly)

Reporting period: 2018-09-01 to 2020-02-29

In the three years since the start of the Fit-4-AMandA project, fuel cell technology is still considered one of the key technologies for zero-emission transport and renewable energy infrastructure in Europe. In addition, interest in climate-friendly energy is growing faster than ever, as the urge to completely rethink energy supply to avoid rapid climate change has reached the consciousness of the population and responsible politicians in most countries.

Even the automotive industry is slowly beginning to rethink and both OEMs and Tier1 suppliers are currently looking for new solutions on a massive scale. Efforts with regard to the suitability for mass production are becoming a massive focus of attention, especially for these companies, as this is the only way to meet the enormous demands of the future in terms of both unit numbers and cost perspectives (unit price).
The project is now in a position to take on a pioneering role and to offer solutions for exactly those problems that are currently being widely discussed in the industry. This applies to all aspects and work packages of the Fit-4-AManda project.
-The formulation of the specifications of requirements for the automatic machine that will be producing stacks, which is the centrepiece of the fuel cell systems.
-Key production parameters of the EWII BPP manufacturing line has been recorded and compiled.
-A bipolar plate press tool set consisting of all necessary parts to produce anode and cathode half-plates with the new design have been produced. A first bipolar plate press tool could not meet the high demands on tolerance accuracy and plane-parallelism that are made by the application. Therefore a further press tool set was produced.
- Extensive research has been carried out to remove the polymer skin that is created during the pressing process. Suitable procedures were identified.
-Collection of all the specifications related to the FC stack product, the machine design, the machine parameters and processing steps, as well as the quality control measures.
-The fuel cell stack design was adapted - parallel with development of assembly technology and equipment system - according the process requirements of automated manufacturing, assembly, transportation, handling, image processing and testing.
- This adapted stack design was tested and validated with machined prototypes and short stacks in terms of processability with the machine and initial performance test have been carried out successfully.
- A complete machine system with several sub module for the automated production of these fuel cell stacks has been build-up, commissioned at the manufacturer’s site with dummy parts. The machine consists of several modules for bringing all cell components together and finally stack and compress them to a complete fuel cell stack. Furthermore due to its modular approach the machine concept is very flexible and able to handle several stack concepts, various stack sizes (cell numbers) and cell formats (PM200 and PM400) with minor adaptions only.
- This fuel cell stack mass manufacturing machine as one of the central elements was disassembled into its individual parts and modules, transported to its final destination at Proton Motor in Puchheim and reassembled there. An initial start-up/commissioning procedure with dummy material was successfully performed. (Commissioning with all original parts is still pending due to lack of availability)
-Dummy parts have been developed being suitable to conduct cost saving commissioning of the mass manufacturing machine. These dummy technology is capable of being easily adapted to other fuel cell stacking machines.
-Provide a list of methods suitable for the fast in-line tests of fuel-cell components and subassemblies.
-A feasibility study to determine the applicability of the fuel cell technology for a commercial FC electrical vehicles has been carried out
- A concept for the integration of the fuel cell system into a battery electric vehicle was carried out.
-A hybridization concept for an ideal balancing of the components fuel cell, battery, hydrogen tank size, tank pressure and a control strategy was developed for an ideal operation performance of a target vehicle application.
1. At least two improved PEM Fuel Cell Stack designs, capable of being ready for future progresses have been developed. When a certain quantity is reached, it is easy to switch from one stack design to another if this makes production more profitable. This is mainly linked to costs but also productivity, production rate and availability of technologies.
2. The developed and built-up fuel cell stack mass manufacturing machine is a kind of unique. The announcement of the machine and some details have aroused great interest from the industry. This is reflected, among other things, in increased demand both from the manufacturer of the machine, Aumann, and from the experts for in-line measurement methodology at Chemnitz Technical University, Fraunhofer IWU and Proton Motor itself. These consequences are far-reaching and have a lasting impact on the company's success and the institute's reputation.
3. Development of a suite of sufficiently fast and conclusive methods to be implemented as in-line as well as end-of-the-line tests, while minimise the time necessary to perform and evaluate the tests were very well received by the industry. Close relationships and cooperations have been established between manufacturers of measurement methods and users of the developed methods from the fuel cell world. Manufacturers of measurement methods have taken up the topic and are currently developing new methods adapted to the specific requirements of fuel cells manufacturing industry.
4. The extensive dissemination activities have also triggered a number of other activities: for example, industries previously not involved in the field are now in close contact with fuel cell manufacturers, OEMs and stakeholders. A large number of other workshops on the topics we addressed were also initiated by various parties.
Fit-4_AMAndA system
Detail of MMM