With the rapid increase in demand for lithium creating a potential shortage, there is no time like the present to have tools that enhance efficiency when handling and inspecting this hot commodity. SCHUNK, a worldwide leader of clamping technology and gripping systems, recently unveiled its newest gripper designed to do just that.
Traditionally, the production process for getting the individual lithium-ion cells to the battery pack assembly requires significant time. The process must be monitored closely, typically by methods of many measurement. With high demand and costly manual workstations, high-quantity production has become significantly more difficult. The new gripper automates the process, eliminating potential operator error and speeding up the process.
SCHUNK’s integrated gripping system uses a “closest-to-the-part” strategy to ensure autonomous completion of the steps needed for handling and quality inspection—all in one compact module. During optimal operation, it has the potential to reach cycle times of under 2 seconds. The flexible gripper picks up the lithium-ion cell and adjusts it within the gripper into a pre-defined test position. Once properly placed, the cell is identified and measured via a bar code while the gripper simultaneously determines vital parameters, including cell surface temperature and curvature and open-circuit voltage.
The gripping module features an integrated PC system that allows for the data to transmitted in real time through an Ethernet TCP/IP. The information is instantly available to the plant controller and superordinate database systems. During this step of the process, any deviations are automatically documented and can sent to the supplier. It also allows each data curve to be viewed separately to further enhance measurement quality and determine areas for potential improvement.
Once the inspection is complete, the gripper completes the final steps of inserting cell in the proper production line or dispatch tray. It automatically discharges any cells that do not meet quality standards.
This all-in-one gripper is also versatile. It can be connected to various robotic or portal systems and allows for configurable control loops. This means the type and scope of test procedures can be individually defined. Customized measurement and evaluations can also be integrated into the system.