Electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming a more common part of the public lexicon every day—I have at least one friend who drives one, and more car charging stations are popping up everywhere all the time. This week, automated multi-process AM solutions provider Sakuu Corporation, formerly known as KeraCel Inc., shook things up in this sector with the announcement that it would soon be releasing what’s called a first-of-its-kind industrial multi-material, multi-process 3D printer that can fabricate e-mobility batteries. This solution, called the Sakuu AM Platform, was designed and developed solely by the company, and enables on-site battery production, which will then address cost, performance, range, and sustainability issues, and open the door to mainstream adoption of e-mobility and electric vehicles.
The California company, which is backed by Japanese automotive parts supplier Musashi Seimitsu and has patents on multi-material printers and hybrid batteries, will now be able to achieve high-volume production of 3D printed solid-state batteries (SSBs), which have the same capacity as lithium-ion batteries but are almost a third more lightweight and half the size. Compared to lithium-ion batteries, Sakuu says that its KeraCel-branded SSBs also have improved safety and sustainability benefits, in addition to needing about 30-50% fewer materials to deliver up to twice the energy capacity, which definitely helps lower production costs.
Robert Bagheri, the Founder, CEO, and Chairman of Sakuu Corporation, said, “As a cheaper, faster, local, customisable and more sustainable method of producing SSBs – which as a product deliver much higher performance attributes than currently available alternatives – the potential of our new platform offers tremendous opportunities to users within energy, as well as a multitude of other markets.”
Sakuu’s battery-fabricating printer uses multiple materials and multiple processes in one system. Blending powder bed and material jet deposition 3D printing, the Sakuu AM Platform uses both ceramic and metal, in addition to the company’s proprietary PoraLyte support material, in a single layer capability to create higher energy density SSBs with, according to the company, “thin monolithic layers and perfect interface.” This is the exact opposite of lower energy density SSBs, which typically have thick, brittle ceramic layers and poor interface, making them ill-suited for high-volume production purposes.
Additionally, Sakuu’s KeraCel SSBs are much more sustainable—always a good thing—due to the fact that their “powder to powder process” makes it easier to conventionally recycle the metals and ceramics. Finally, because the system is said to be so agile, customers should be able to easily switch to 3D printing different sizes and types of batteries as well.
Bagheri said, “For the e-mobility markets specifically, we believe this to be a landmark achievement, and one that could transform consumer adoption of electric vehicles.
“SSBs are a holy grail technology, but they are both very difficult and expensive to make. By harnessing the flexibility and efficiency-enhancing capabilities of our unique and scalable AM process, we’re enabling battery manufacturers and EV companies to overcome these fundamental pain points.
“Furthermore, by adopting it as the technology of choice, these users also benefit from the wider opportunities our AM platform delivers, namely the ability to enjoy on-demand, localised production, which can help drive more efficient manufacturing operations and shorter supply chains.”
The Sakuu AM Platform will likely help boost both consumer and manufacturer confidence, speeding up the adoption of EVs, but because its new 3D printer is purported to fabricate complex, functional devices at industrial rates, the company believes that it can be used for end device markets in industries other than energy storage as well, such as power banks and heatsinks for consumer electronics, medical pathogen detectors and microfluidic devices, sensors and electric motors for aerospace and automotive applications, and PH, pressure, and temperature sensors within IoT.
Sakuu’s Alpha Platform for its initial hardware offering will be available in Q4 this year, and the company will focus first on the two-, three-, and smaller four-wheel EV markets, as these will be the most likely to initially benefit from the low weight, small form factor, and better capacity of the 3D printed SSBs.
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