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.”
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.
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Stay up-to-date on all the latest news from the 3D printing industry and receive information and offers from third party vendors.
You May Also Like
Solize Debuts on the Tokyo Stock Exchange: A Milestone for Japan’s 3D Printing Industry
In the dynamic landscape of Japan’s engineering and manufacturing sectors, Solize Corporation has emerged as a beacon of innovation, particularly in the realm of 3D printing technologies. On February 7,...
3D Printing Webinar and Event Roundup: January 28, 2024
It’s another busy week of 3D printing industry webinars and events! Stratasys continues its advanced training, while Nexa3D and Headmade Materials will discuss ColdMetalFusion in a webinar. 3DHEALS is hosting...
Electronics 3D Printing Company Electroninks Partners with Japan’s SAKATA INX
Electroninks, the Austin-based manufacturer of metal complex inks for electronics applications, has partnered with SAKATA INX, a Japanese company that manufactures a variety of inks, including materials for the electronics...
EPSON and Development Bank of Japan Bet on 3DEO’s Metal 3D Printing Tech
Japanese investment into the additive manufacturing (AM) sector is increasing and it’s bringing new, powerful players to the table. Los Angeles-based 3DEO announced a substantial investment from the Development Bank...
Upload your 3D Models and get them printed quickly and efficiently.