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Robots build batteries

From start to finish, throughout the whole process – Fully automated Norwegian battery factory equipped with KUKA's robots 

Intek, a strong partner to KUKA

At the end of January, Siemens opened a fully automated battery factory in Norway, aimed at end customers in the maritime and offshore industries. The backbone of the installation is a production line with KUKA robots, put together by KUKA's Norwegian partner Intek. "Siemens battery factory is at the cutting edge globally, we are delighted that Intek selected our robots for the facility", says Frode Grimsbø, Area Sales Manager at KUKA in Norway.

Opening of the Factory by Prime Minister Erna Solberg

Starting a battery factory in Norway appears a logical choice. The country is one of the global homes of the electrified vehicle. In addition to well-developed hydroelectric power generation, Norwegians also have a strong position regarding the proportion of electric vehicles (over 30 percent), which is unique in the world.

Prime minister attends inauguration

An indication of the importance that the Norwegian government places on battery technology is the fact that Prime Minister Erna Solberg attended the inauguration of the factory in Trondheim, which is an investment at a level of 100 million.  "Trondheim itself is also a good choice. Siemens has a competence centre for electrical and hybrid solutions in the town, with long experience. In addition, it is close to the customers in the maritime and offshore industries", says Frode Grimsbø.

Erna Solberg, Prime Minister Norway. Torstein Sole-Gärtner, SVP Head of Offshore Marine Centre at Siemens

Batteries for marine purposes

According to Marit Panengstuen, CEO of Siemens AS, the successes of the competence centre in Trondheim impressed the company's global management. "They have given us in Norway responsibility for developing the new battery system", she says. Now Siemens sees the manufacture of batteries for marine purposes, a niche which has very high requirements, as a business area with great potential. 

"Everyone considers that this market will grow significantly in the future. We have gone into this with high ambitions to create solutions that live up to the customers' expectations," says Bjørn Einar Brath, head of Offshore Solutions at Siemens

Siemens expects a doubling of the marine market up to 2024. Nearly 80 percent of all new small and medium sizes vessels of up to 150 metres in length, the type of ship that operates in the Hurtigruten, are expected to be equipped with hybrid solutions that include battery operation.

Long-term collaboration with Norwegian partner

The battery systems manufactured in Trondheim consist of nine different modules with 28 battery cells each. They are assembled by 11 KUKA robots of different types, that with the assistance of a number of AGVs (Automated Guided Vehicles) from the Japanese company Omron are taught to manage themselves more or less without any human involvement. 

The AGVs move around the room, they retrieve and leave material and manage other service tasks. The collaboration of the machines allows them to do everything from unpacking parts to assembling and finally testing the newly built battery modules.
Anita Hager, CEO and Sølvar Flatmo, CSO Intek Engineering AS
"We want to have as few people as possible involved in the process," says Torstein Sole-Gärtner, head of Siemens' offshore and marine centre in Trondheim. When the process is fully fine-tuned the robot line will be able to assemble 55 modules per shift. The batteries will then be used for everything from fishing boat motors to offshore drilling platforms. The factory recently received its first order form the Northern Drilling company, which needs batteries for the West Mira drilling rig. Intek has selected KUKA's robots for several tasks that require sensory properties, and in one of the cells 3D-vision is combined with equipment from Zivid and KUKA.

"Intek is a clever engineering company that we have had a good collaboration with for several years. Here they have designed an efficient production line with a high degree of complexity," says Frode Grimsbø at KUKA. 

According to Anita Hager, CEO of Intek, the unique thing about the battery factory process is that the robot cells are able to carry out several different operations.  This gives flexibility and creates the opportunity to scale up the capacity when the demand increases", she says. 

New assignment in Bergen

Annually, the factory will manufacture batteries with a combined capacity of 300–400 MWh, which is sufficient to power approx. 150–200 ferries. But Trondheim is just the start. The expectations of increased demand are large in both Siemens and other players. "Intek has also been given the task of designing the production line for an automatic battery factory in Bergen. This time the Norwegian-Canadian company Corvus is behind the factory", says Frode Grimsbø.

Anita Hager, CEO and LBR iiwa

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