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Batteries are crucial to electromobility, so staying a step ahead in battery production is vital. Photovoltaics is just as important as batteries, albeit for energy production. The two fields have now been interconnected at VDMA in a very special way.

By Katrin Pudenz

Battery Production © CATLWhile "miniaturization" was the key topic for VDMA's Electronics, Micro and Nano Technologies (EMINT) trade association until recently, the association expanded its scope in early February 2018, adding battery production and photovoltaics to its portfolio. VDMA EMINT is led by Thilo Brückner. It was formed in 2014 from a fusion of the Productronic and Micro Technology trade associations. Back then it had 98 members. The merger with the specialist departments Battery Production and Photovoltaic Equipment has now brought the number of members in EMINT from 115 (October 2017) to 170 (July 2018).

The Photovoltaic Equipment working group and the Battery Production industrial group were both formed from the Productronic trade association (now a specialist department in the EMINT trade association). 2007 saw a lot of hype about photovoltaics in Germany, remembers Dr. Jutta Trube, Deputy Managing Director of EMINT and responsible for the specialist department Photovoltaic Equipment. "Most manufacturers of photovoltaic modules and cells were still from Germany and Europe. German mechanical engineering companies were world market leaders when it came to machinery for the photovoltaics industry," she reports. In 2007, photovoltaics still came under the umbrella of the Productronic trade association. The term productronic refers to the production of electronics, such as semi-conductors and circuit boards. Many process steps in photovoltaics are similar to those in the semi-conductor industry, such as silicon wafers. The Photovoltaics working group was founded in 2010.

Specialist information and customer perception

The photovoltaic industry must provide energy generation products that can compete with products for both conventional energy sources and other renewable energies. To help electricity from photovoltaic systems become the cheapest energy source, the specialist department updates its members on technologies and markets, compiles quarterly statistics and business climate surveys, and works on its members' behalf to enhance customer perception and increase the visibility of photovoltaic suppliers. Another project being worked on by Dr. Jutta Trube’s team is the International Technology Roadmap for Photovoltaic, the ninth edition of which was published this year. The aim of the roadmap is to keep suppliers and customers informed about technology trends in the field of crystalline silicon photovoltaics and to stimulate discussion about the necessary optimization and standards.

The Battery Production industrial group, on the other hand, has been an independent body since 2011. That was around the time of the initial hype about electric cars, reports Dr. Sarah Michaelis, Division Manager of the Battery Production specialist department. "The battery forms the heart of an electric car and accounts for over a third of its value creation." Battery production also includes process steps from electronics production, such as the battery’s electrical bonding, she continues.

Multi-disciplinary collaboration

Battery production and photovoltaics are crucial building blocks for both renewable energies and electromobility. If electromobility is to make a real difference on the roads, batteries need to become cheaper. Mechanical and plant engineering can make a valuable contribution here. "Our member companies offer production solutions for the entire production chain, from electrode and cell manufacturing to module assembly and battery packs," explains Michaelis. Module assembly and battery pack production are usually taken care of by the OEM itself. "The close link between production technology and vehicle development has always guaranteed the success of the German and European automotive industry," says Michaelis, adding that this benefits member companies involved in module and pack production.

Greater challenges face mechanical and plant engineering companies in the field of electrode and cell production. "The most important companies are based in Asia," says Michaelis. This makes market access difficult, she continues. However, Michaelis sees a great opportunity in the decision by the Chinese battery manufacturer CATL to build a battery cell factory in Erfurt. "Back in May, our roadshow visited CATL at its headquarters in Ningde, China." A total of 27 member companies presented their production solutions in a small exhibition there. The specialist department developed the roadshow concept together with the members. This gives mechanical and plant engineering companies the opportunity to present their production solutions for battery production directly to customers. "The first roadshow in 2017 took us to South Korea, visiting Samsung and LG," says Michaelis. Planning for a roadshow to the USA in 2019 is already underway. Michaelis is convinced that "our companies' high level of specialization offers the best possible potential for optimization." According to her, the companies are leaders in automation technology and digitalization (Industrie 4.0) in particular.

Joint activities

The specialist departments within VDMA's EMINT trade association define and implement the activities for the respective sub-industry. They support their members with technology roadmaps and strategic market information, so that system innovations continue to become successful business investments. The trade association itself develops joint activities.

In addition, the Organic Electronics Association (OE-A), VDMA's Productronic and Micro Technologies specialist departments and the VDMA industrial group Battery Production are all part of VDMA’s EMINT trade association.

EMINT organizes network meetings twice a year, with a user industry always the focus of the spring meeting. In keeping with the motto "Industry Meets Science", the fall meetings are geared towards scientists and researchers and serve to foster exchanges between member companies and the world of science.

Further information

VDMA EMINT   |   VDMA Photovoltaic Equipment   |   VDMA Battery Production   |   VDMAimpulse 06-2017: "VDMA EMINT: Ever smaller and more precise"   |   VDMAimpulse 05-2017: "Printed electronics - moving ahead"  

Dr. Jutta Trube, VDMA EMINT, Photovoltaic Equipment.
Dr. Sarah Michaelis, VDMA EMINT, Battery Production.

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