Hydrogen looks set to play an important role as an energy source. It can be produced in electrolyzers in a carbon-neutral manner from renewable energy before being transformed into electrical energy in fuel cells. The advantages of fuel cells can especially be seen in the area of freight transport in comparison with battery-powered electric vehicles. However, there are also many future application areas for fuel cells in stationary areas.
Efficient cycle times and absolute precision are crucial when manufacturing fuel cells. The overarching aim is to reduce manufacturing costs in order to make the use of this technology more cost-effective. However, this can only be achieved through scaling effects, which call for fully automated manufacturing plants with accordingly high capacities. This kind of manufacturing plant is not yet available on the market, while the configuration of the components also requires further optimization to produce a design suitable for automation. Therefore, it is worthwhile to look for ways right now in which they can be automated and manufactured at scale.
This is exactly what the research team at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA and the Center for Digitization, Leadership and Sustainability Schwarzwald (Campus Schwarzwald) have sought to achieve as part of the “H2FastCell” project. Together with teams from five companies, the scientists are aiming to develop a robot cell by 2023 that can assemble the individual layers of a fuel cell in a matter of seconds and with absolute precision.