Hyliion Begins 3D Printing Generator Parts amid Strategic Shift

Share this Article

Hyliion Holdings Corp. (NYSE: HYLN), a developer of electricity-generating technology, has announced that is has begun 3D printing parts for its KARNO generator product. Based in Austin, Texas, the publicly traded startup has had a complex history, but, after acquiring assets from GE in exchange for cash and three percent ownership by the conglomerate, Hyliion could find itself in lucrative territory. The company is 3D printing critical parts for its electric generator that have potential far beyond power generation alone.

KARNO Nears BETA

Thanks to 3D printing, the fuel-agnostic KARNO system can generate electricity using various fuels, including natural gas, hydrogen, and propane. It also offers potential for electric vehicle charging in locations where utility-installed power is delayed.

One of Hyliion’s 200-kilowatt generators consists of four shafts that initiate a process called flameless oxidation, where fuel and air react to produce an ultra-clean burn aimed at generating heat. This heat is then transferred to the linear generator’s coil areas, heating trapped gas in the cylinder that expands to push the linear generator’s piston in one direction. Simultaneously, an opposite reaction occurs on the other side, creating a back-and-forth motion. At the core of the generator is an electric motor that uses this motion, through the interaction of magnets and coils, to produce electricity.

This style of heat generator, referred to as Stirling engines, is over a century old, but designing them have historically faced challenges with efficient heat transfer, which is critical for their successful operation in various applications. To overcome this hurdle, Hyliion is employing 3D printing intricate heat exchanger components within the generator’s shafts, key to achieving the high efficiency levels required for the generator’s performance.

The KARNO system is not finalized, nor is the generator fully available to customers. Hyllion has simply begun printing parts for its production-intent design. Specifically, additive manufacturing (AM) is being used to produce critical components, especially the heat exchangers and thermodynamic systems. This approach not only enhances the precision and quality of these components but also significantly contributes to the overall efficiency of the generator.

The initial 200 kW BETA units, to be operated at Hyliion’s Cincinnati, Ohio, development facility, are expected to validate the generator’s superior efficiency levels, ultra-low emissions, and extended runtime between maintenance. Now that Hyliion has completed the design of major components for the BETA version of the KARNO generator, the firm aims to complete testing and verification of the BETA generator throughout 2024, gearing up for initial deployments to early adopters later in the year.

Hyllion’s Complex History

Though Hyllion has always been focused on power generation, the specific application of this focus has changed since the firm was founded in 2015. Initially, the firm was developing hybrid drivetrain technology for tractor-trailers, in which regenerative braking was meant to recapture energy when a trailer was slowing down or going downhill. By 2019, it had acquired its battery supplier and, in 2020, it performed a merger with a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) to become listed on the New York Stock Exchange, where it raised $345 million in its public offering.

Like many SPAC mergers of the time, Hyllion soon suffered on the market. Meanwhile, it continued to pursue its strategy of producing hybrid electric powertrains for heavy haul vehicles. In 2022, the firm acquired the KARNO technology unit from GE Aviation. Then, partnering with Hyzon Motors, it planned to launch a series of trucks, with production set to begin by the end of 2023. Instead, however, as Q4 2023 approached, Hyliion actually decided to cease its hybrid electric powertrain business and lay off 175 employees, two-thirds of its workforce to shift its focus entirely to KARNO.

The strategic shift, announced alongside Hyliion’s third-quarter earnings report, followed challenges in the powertrain business, including delays, cost overruns, and a strategic review that began in October of 2023. The company stopped taking orders for the powertrain on October 11, and the wind-down is expected to complete by the end of the first quarter of 2024, costing $18.4 million. The refocus led to a significant drop in Hyliion’s stock value, and the company faces potential delisting from the New York Stock Exchange due to its low share price.

The KARNO generator, initially intended for the second-generation ERX powertrain, is now Hyliion’s primary focus. Hyliion has moved into a new R&D and production facility near Cincinnati for KARNO and reports progress in grid power delivery, customer showcases, and testing towards power, efficiency, and emissions goals. GE Aviation and Additive veteran Josh Mook was subsequently promoted to Hyliion chief technology officer.

In a recent presentation, Hyliion Founder and CEO Thomas Healy said, “Unfortunately, as I’m sure many of you have been following, the EV space is a mess right now. It’s extremely challenging. There’s been a lot of pullback from the adoption of EVs. So, we’ve decided to focus the company more on bringing this into the stationary market and then, longer term, seeing it as a mobility solution.”

Hyliion’s Financials

As Hyliion operates in a high-tech space, where it has previously failed to deliver on its key products and strategy, it isn’t in an ideal situation financially. The company’s cost of revenue has been consistently higher than its total revenue, leading to negative gross profit.

Hyliion’s operating expenses have been substantial, with a slight decrease from $152.358 million in 2021 to $135.297 million in the trailing twelve months (TTM). The company is facing a large deficit with losses each year since the SPAC and its end cash position has decreased markedly from $389.705 million at the end of 2020 to $29.265 million in the TTM.

Hyliion’s operating cash flow has been negative and widening, which is concerning. However, the investing cash flow was positive in the TTM, and financing cash flow has been low post-SPAC. Total liabilities have not grown proportionally, indicating that the company is not taking on additional debt at the same rate as it is losing assets. Total debt remains low, suggesting that Hyliion is not heavily leveraged. There is a decrease in total equity, suggesting that the company’s valuation might be under pressure due to sustained losses.

The company needs to improve its cost management and revenue growth to achieve a sustainable business model. The high operating expenses indicate that it might be in a growth phase, investing heavily in research, development, and expansion. However, the decreasing cash position and negative free cash flow raise concerns about its long-term financial stability without additional capital infusion or a significant increase in revenue.

From Trucks to Microgrids

So, while the firm is attempting to right its ship, business has been severely hampered due to the failure of the truck engine business. Given that that was its initial strategy, one would expect things to essentially be over for Hyliion. However, there may still be a chance for the firm as it focuses on KARNO. With GE Aviation’s business essentially now lying at the heart of Hyliion, there is a significant opportunity to produce not only fuel-agnostic generators, but any number of key power generation and thermal management parts.

As we’ve seen with Conflux, an AM Ventures portfolio startup, there is business alone in the world of 3D printed heat exchangers. Conflux’s main focus has been in aerospace and automotive, but heat exchangers are also used for temperature regulation in HVAC systems, refrigeration, power generation, chemical processing, food and beverage production, marine engine cooling, pharmaceutical manufacturing, oil refining, waste heat recovery, industrial processes, electronics, and building energy recovery.

Essentially, energy and its management are the key to industrial society. By making all of that more efficient in a time of rising fuel costs, depleted resources, and global warming, any number of AM-focused businesses could theoretically reap a fortune. So far, Hyllion has not disclosed an intention to sell heat exchangers. The KARNO system alone may suffice as a power generator. Interestingly, it is being marketed as a possible tool for microgrids, which many see as the future of electricity distribution when fuels are increasingly scarce, renewables undependable, and extreme weather events will more often disrupt centralized systems.

Share this Article


Recent News

3D Printing News Briefs, July 13, 2024: Metal 3D Printer, AFWERX Award, & More

3D Printing Markets Grows 8% Year over Year



Categories

3D Design

3D Printed Art

3D Printed Food

3D Printed Guns


You May Also Like

Vision Miner Acquires its 3D Printer Supplier AddWise

Vision Miner, a provider of industrial 3D printing solutions, has announced the acquisition of AddWise, a manufacturer of 3D printers and related products, in a deal valued that the companies...

“Auto Repair Needs 3D Printing” – Harold Sears Weighs in on Auto Additive’s Launch

Despite the automotive sector’s long-time adoption of additive manufacturing (AM), the use of the technology for end parts in consumer vehicles is only just now beginning to take off. And,...

Featured

Formlabs Buys Nascent SLS 3D Printer Competitor Micronics

Formlabs, maker of accessible yet professional 3D printers, has acquired Micronics, which recently debuted with a claim of making a $2,999 3D printer. I, for one, was pretty incredulous about...

The Producers: HP’s President of 3D Printing Savi Baveja Explains How the Company is Addressing Scalability

HP (NSYE: HPQ) and the additive manufacturing (AM) industry in the US need each other. In the long run, I believe that what’s good for one will be good for...