Enovix Corp., developer of 3D Silicon lithium-ion batteries, is collaborating with IPG Photonics Corp. to develop next-generation laser tooling and methods for optimizing battery cell manufacturing processes and productivity. Enovix has also appointed laser photonics expert Manuel Leonardo as Senior Staff Laser Engineer. According to the company, these two developments are expected to accelerate its efforts to increase manufacturing productivity and product performance and enable quicker development of future products.
The Enovix production system relies heavily on the unique capabilities and precision of its laser-patterning technology, according to company co-founder and CTO Ashok Lahiri. “Our manufacturing process has advanced significantly going from 30-watt lasers in 2018 to one kilowatt lasers today, which will be incorporated into our Gen2 systems,” Lahiri said. Leveraging industry gains in laser power, as well as proprietary advances in electrode processing techniques, Enovix has demonstrated a severalfold improvement in laser throughput in high-volume production in a short 15-month period, he said.
“We are pleased to work with world-leading organizations such as IPG Photonics and bring on experts in the field like Manuel to further enable our capabilities in these areas,” he added.
The goals of the Enovix/IPG agreement include promoting the transition from mechanical cutting to laser processing in the industry at large. Next-gen laser tooling equipment is intended to significantly advance Enovix’ efforts to scale.
Stacking instead of rolling
“More and more battery manufacturers are adopting laser technology into their manufacturing process,” stated Trevor Ness, senior vice president, worldwide sales and strategic business development at IPG Photonics. “We believe Enovix is a leader in this area and we’re excited to continue working with them to bring advanced laser innovation to the battery industry.”
In a third-quarter 2022 announcement to investors, IPG Photonics CEO Dr. Eugene Scherbakov noted “We are seeing accelerating investments in lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles globally and expect to benefit from continued higher sales to EV applications in the next several years.”
In a recent blog post, Enovix describes how, while other companies focus on incrementally improving batteries through new chemistries, “we’ve completely reimagined the battery architecture—throwing out the more than 100-year-old ‘jelly roll,’ where long strips of anode, separator and cathode are wound together in a jelly roll form, and replaced it with a precise, laser-patterned design where strips of anodes, separators and cathodes are stacked.”
This new architecture allows for more efficient use of battery volume in contrast to the jelly roll, where significant volume is wasted at the corners and in gaps at the center of the battery caused by a lack of precision in the winding process. The novel Enovix 3D battery architecture improves the packing efficiency of the active material inside the battery, enabling exceptional thermal performance and abuse tolerance, as well as accommodating a 100% active silicon anode.
Laser Expertise Added
Enovix also announced the hiring of Manuel Leonardo to lead its laser photonics programs. He has been working with Enovix since April 2022 on its Technical Advisory Board and has a proven track record of success bringing laser products from concept to market. With a comprehensive knowledge of laser physics, he excels in designing cost-effective laser systems. Prior to joining Enovix, Leonardo was Vice President of Laser Systems for VulcanForms, Inc., where he founded both manufacturing and R&D photonics groups since 2021. Prior to that, he was with IPG Photonics as Director of Engineering for its Silicon Valley Technology Center. From 2005 to 2013 he was Co-Founder and CTO of Mobius Photonics, Inc., which was acquired by IPG Photonics. He is an inventor on 13 patents and has filed six pending and provisional patents.