Polymer-electrode membrane fuel cell technology, a low-emission power source receiving much attention for its efficiency, will need to progress from low-volume production to high-volume within the course of the next decade. To successfully achieve this transition, significant research progress has already been made toward developing a fully functional fuel cell automatic stack assembly robotic station. Lessons can be drawn from this research with regards to design-for-manufacture (DFM) and design-for-assembly (DFA) considerations of fuel cells; however, more work still remains to be done. This document outlines both iterations of the robotic fuel cell assembly stations, other work to date, DFM and DFA lessons learned, and the anticipated future progression of automatic fuel cell stack assembly stations. Two individual robotic fuel cell assembly stations were constructed, including custom-built end effectors and part feeders. The second station incorporated numerous improvements, including overlapping work envelopes, elimination of a shuttle cart, software synchronization, fewer axes, and a better end effector. Consequentially, the second workcell achieved a fourfold improvement in cycle time over the previous iteration. Future improvements will focus in part upon improving the reliability of the overall system. As the stack assembly workcell continues to improve, research will focus upon the ramifications and interplay of tolerances, stack failure modes, sealing, reliability, and the potential for component redesign specifically to optimize fuel cell manufacturing throughput.
Fuel Cell ASAP: Two Iterations of an Automated Stack Assembly Process and Ramifications for Fuel Cell Design-for-Manufacture Considerations
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Laskowski, C., and Derby, S. (February 16, 2011). "Fuel Cell ASAP: Two Iterations of an Automated Stack Assembly Process and Ramifications for Fuel Cell Design-for-Manufacture Considerations." ASME. J. Fuel Cell Sci. Technol. June 2011; 8(3): 031004. https://doi.org/10.1115/1.4000684
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