Ally Winning, European Editor, PSD
One of the major drawbacks of the batteries that we use today is the way that we make them. The process is time consuming, messy and expensive. It normally either involves slow layer-on-layer printing or screen-printing. It is an inherently wet processes that requires significant time and energy to remove unwanted solvents and the yield is often lowered due to poor printing quality and unreliable production. One of the ways we could change that is through 3D printing the batteries from the ground up.
3D printing has come a long way since its original introduction. As well as being useful for prototyping, the improved granularity of the printing process, combined with a much broader variety of printing materials, means that the technique can be used for full scale production. 3D printing has even been employed successfully in printing components for highly critical applications, such as aircraft manufacturing. The technology has many advantages over traditional manufacturing, including low start up costs. Ongoing production is still cost-effective as there is much less waste, making it also more sustainable. Designs can be changed quickly and easily, without the need for retooling. If 3D printing could be used for battery production, if would solve many of the manufacturing problems that the industry faces today.
One company that is claiming that it has done just that and successfully adapted 3D printing for battery manufacture is Sakuu. The company claims to be the first to 3D print fully functional batteries in custom shapes and sizes with patterned openings for thermal management in a fully dry process. It says that it is now on-track for commercial-scale production of printed batteries. The company’s Kavian platform can be employed to make highly power dense batteries, in chemistries that include lithium ion, lithium metal and solid-state batteries at high-volume production speeds.
Since December 2022 Sakuu claims it has consistently 3D printed fully functional batteries in a range of custom shapes and sizes. The fully industrialized process uses a proprietary multi-material, multi-layer approach in a parallel and dry process to deliver flexible and low-cost battery manufacturing. Sakuu’s first printed batteries have demonstrated successful cycling performance at C/5, IC current rates, and it expects to achieve high energy density at 800–1000 Wh/l.
The batteries were printed as patterned cells with patterned openings at Sakuu’s Silicon Valley battery pilot line facility. Patterned battery printing allows more effective use of battery cell volume with new pathways in thermal dynamic regulation, meaning that fixturing, sensors, and thermal transport pathways can be integrated.
Sakuu’s Kavian platform will be sold to other battery manufacturers and OEMs to assist others to mass-produce batteries with a shorter supply chain, as well as material and energy savings. Additionally, Sakuu will licensing its own battery chemistries, both Li-metal and solid-state, to be produced with either traditional roll-to-roll manufacturing or in plants utilizing Kavian manufacturing.