Fuel cell technology offers an immense opportunity for future emission-free mobility. One of the biggest challenges for their breakthrough, however, is the currently still high costs compared to the gasoline or diesel drives established on the market.
This is mainly due to the use of non-standardized components and the still insufficiently automated production of polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) stacks, which makes them comparatively expensive. The EU-funded development project Fit-4-AMandA (Fit for Automatic Manufacturing and Assembly) will therefore focus on the automated series production of PEM stacks and their components. The knowledge gained could then contribute to the economical production of fuel cell systems in larger quantities.
A significant milestone in this project, which has been running since 2017, was the delivery of a new stack robot to Proton Motor Fuel Cell GmbH at the end of May 2019. With the help of this automated PEM stack assembly line (see Fig. 2), production in Puchheim is to be increased to up to 5,000 fuel cells per year. The international project team, consisting of six institutions, jointly developed this robot and participated in a rigorous testing program to perfect its performance and capacity so that, with a slightly modified machine layout, up to 30,000 stacks could be produced per year.
First of all, it had to be clarified how high the desired degree of automation and the required plant throughput should be, how fragile and flexible components should be handled and how quality assurance should be carried out. In comparison to manual production, the need for optimisation essentially arose from the significantly faster feeding as well as the separation and manipulation of the components during automated assembly. In addition, the redesign of several stack components was necessary in order to significantly reduce manufacturing costs.
In this project , IRD Fuel Cells A/S will assume the position of supplier of the new stack components to be developed. This includes the redesign of the process and tool technology for the production of the bipolar plates from composite material. The second key component to be newly developed is the membrane electrode assembly (MEA). Requirement criteria are the achievable performance, compliance with dimensional tolerances and process optimization, with the aim of direct integration into the automated assembly line.
read more in H2-international October 2019
The project is funded under the EU FCH JU Grant Agreement No. 735606.
Sebastian Porstmann, Fraunhofer-Institut für Werkzeugmaschinen und Umformtechnik IWU, Chemnitz
Dr. Martin Biák, Technische Universität Chemnitz