In this issue of Industry Update, we are delighted to select Customcells as our lithium-ion battery cells manufacturer Company of the Month.
The first mock-up of lithium-ion batteries started back in the 1970’s, when English chemist, Stanley Whittingham started experimenting with titanium disulfide and lithium metal. Further research in the 1980’s pioneered the elimination of lithium metal but it wasn’t until the 1990’s when the first commercial cells were actively produced.
Following concerns about the safety of lithium metal batteries, researchers started to focus development on lithium-ion batteries, in accordance with strict safety measures. Lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable, with an exceptionally high energy density and lower self-discharge rate, meaning they have a shelf life from 10-12 years. The popularity of lithium-ion batteries has grown as they continue to power laptops, mobile phones, hybrid/electric cars to emergency medical and navigational equipment and are now the most rechargeable batteries across the world.
Customcells is a renowned, globally leading DIN EN ISO 9001-certified company in the field of lithium-ion battery cell development, from individual prototypes to medium-series volumes. As previously mentioned, Lithium-ion batteries are now the most used rechargeable batteries across the world, with graphite routinely used as the anode material. Graphite is chosen for its long-life cycle and its ability to create a stable, solid electrolyte interphase (SEI) layer, thereby protecting the anode further from reactions with the electrolyte. Customcells however, are now leading the charge for alternative anode materials, such as silicon, with its superior lithium storage ion capacity, with the resident R&D team working on teething issues such as volume expansion during the charging/discharging cycle.
Working with industries as diverse as aerospace, automotive, maritime to medical, Customcells holds considerable expertise in the battery cell area, from materials, cells, to battery modules and systems. Priding itself on offering a twofold service: comprehensive portfolio of products and expert consulting services for energy storage concepts and process technology, the company has earnt its place as a leading global manufacturer and consultant.
However, the company goes above and beyond by also facilitating workshops and seminars for industry professionals on in-house lithium-ion batteries and its applications. The resident research & development department keeps abreast of cutting-edge material technology in the battery industry. Furthermore, Customcells provides a full licensing service, where new technologies re developed and scaled for various lithium-ion battery cell applications on behalf of customers.
Customcells was founded in 2012 by Leopold König and Torge Thönnessen, as an offshoot from the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicon Technology (ISIT). During his time at ISIT, Leopold worked on electromobility at the Development Department for lithium-polymer cells. Electromobility is the current sustainability focus of the automotive industry, as it pertains to electric vehicles and its charging infrastructure. Torge also holds an extensive background in electromobility, battery cell development, product development and process analysis/optimisation and together, this dynamic duo have spearheaded traction across the electromobility sector.
The remit of the founding site in Itzehoe (Germany, Schleswig-Holstein) is the development of battery cells and the evolution of production of prototype production to series maturity. Meanwhile the second newer site in Tuebingen (Germany, Baden- Wuerttemberg) operates one of Europe’s most modern cell production lines, offering customers series production of lithium-ion pouch cells for aviation at the highest technological level. Moreover, utilising the latest in automation technology, ensures that moisture is kept out of production, as contact between the workers and materials is minimised. This substantially reduces the ‘air drying process,’ making the process more substantial and reduce carbon footprint.
We spoke to Dr Dirk Abendroth, CEO of the Customcells Group, to find out more about the unique customer benefits of premium products from Customcells.
“We provide specialised energy storage solutions, spanning across the aviation, automotive, maritime, and medical sectors and offer unique benefits to our clients through our ability to produce energy storage systems for extreme conditions.
We understand our clients’ unique needs and have access to 14 industrialised electrode technologies and over 250 raw materials, which enables us to produce highly customised battery cells according to our customers’ applications.
Our technology has already demonstrated its success in real-world applications. There have been more than 600 satisfied customers as part of more than 1,400 projects. Furthermore, we serve as the battery cell supplier for well-known companies operating in the aviation industry, a sector with enormous future potential.
Together with several partners, Customcells, is working on a smart battery factory. In a leadership role, Customcells has initiated the collaborative project TwinTRACE, which unites industry and research partners. The primary objective of this endeavour is to establish highly efficient production processes through the implementation of a digital twin. Through TwinTRACE, the project partners are elevating the standards of battery cell production by enhancing quality and traceability, positioning themselves as world leaders in this domain. Additionally, they are setting benchmarks for intelligent digitization within the industry.”
In addition to the exciting cutting-edge TwinTRACE project, Customcells has recently strengthened its top management and recruited a number of highly respected managers from well-known companies such as Continental, Rimac, BMW, Magna and Kion. This move is aimed at accelerating the company’s global growth, through optimising internal organisational processes. At the end of 2022, Customcells successfully secured EUR 60 million in Series A financing, to continue its future endeavours in this trailblazing area.
“Being at the forefront of innovation, our company is dedicated to establishing the benchmarks for the future of battery cell technology. Our focus lies in developing high-performance battery cells that aim to carve out a new premium segment in the worldwide market. This segment will be defined by remarkable energy and power density, setting new standards in the industry.
Furthermore, with the expansion of our site in Itzehoe, we aim to offer even more comprehensive support across all areas of process development. As part of our growth strategy, we are also actively exploring potential expansion into additional locations, including the United States.
Customcells is ‘powered by people’ – and has been for almost ten years. Our business is driven by the ideas of our employees. As such, we are always looking for talented individuals who share our values and are eager to contribute to our mission, inviting them to join our team,” concludes Dirk Abendroth
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