The Measure of Measurement: Identifying Sensor Needs, Solutions

December 18, 2020 | At NDC Technologies, advances in battery technologies are driven by the customer’s needs explains Gareth Joseph, Global Business Director, Lithium Ion Battery Technology Solutions, at NDC Technologies. The battery market is growing rapidly and expanding geographically, Joseph said, and NDC’s newest measurement tools have been driven by the pain points in the manufacturing process.

Joseph is a veteran of the high-tech measurement and controls industry. For over 27 years, he has worked with industry leading organizations to solve a broad scope of online gauging applications, first with urothelium gauging systems as an applications engineer, an infrared calibration specialist, and most recently with NDC Technologies as its business director, focused on energy storage and material solutions. His contributions have enabled the world’s foremost manufacturers to improve product quality, increase productivity, boost process efficiencies, and realize production savings.

Recently, Craig Wohlers, Executive Director of Conferences at Cambridge EnerTech, spoke with Joseph about NDC’s market observations and new products. Battery Power Online was invited to listen in. This transcript has been edited slightly for clarity; their full conversation is available as a podcast.

Craig Wohlers: Could you tell me a little bit, what is NDC Technologies’ history in the energy storage materials market?

Gareth Joseph: Well, we’ve been supplying coat weight measurement systems now to the battery cell market for several decades. In fact, our records show it’s probably the end of the 1980s that NDC installed its first system—that would have been on a coating line producing electrodes for primary batteries. The very first gauges NDC was supplying used a sensor measurement technology called the Gamma Backscatters. This sensor was a relatively small and relatively compact sensor. Whilst the measurement performance, its speed and repeatability were not as good as compared to sensors being used today, at the time it was deemed good enough for those early narrow, slow coating processes, and where the demands on the actual battery cells themselves wasn’t so critical as we find today.

But as we enter in today’s market, the trend has been for the process lines to be wider and faster. It’s led to the market adopting alternative technologies. The current de facto technology is the beta sensor. That has remained for a couple of decades, but now the industry is demanding better measurement solutions, NDC has embarked on a development project to bring new, innovative measurements to the processes.

Can you talk about some of those innovations and measurement that you’ve introduced to better manufacturers?

Yes, certainly, Craig. If we first look at the coat weight measurements for the anode and cathode electrodes, the new technology NDC has developed is called a photon gauge. We’ve also introduced a new repeatable true thickness gauge that is used mainly on the roll press and production lines, but also could be used in the electro coating line at the end. Finally, we’ve also been working on our infrared technology, which is what NDC is famed for. We’ve been working on that infrared technology, improving the measurement algorithms and the overall performance of the gauges not just to separate a film basis weight, the GSM, but also the film thickness, the microns. That gauge also is able to measure the oil weight content of the film in wet separator processes.

Great. From your perspective, what do you think that the market needs? Have the market need requirements changed a bit, and do you see that market opportunity in the technologies that you guys are developing?

That’s a good, good question, a very pertinent question. Certainly to set out and develop new technology is not a small matter. It takes a lot of resource to embark on such a project, but what NDC is seeing is that the battery market is evolving and it’s evolving fast. First of all, if we look at the overall expected capacity growth for battery cell manufacturers, it’s significant. It’s spreading from Asia to Europe and North America. We see a significant growth on the battery cell market. Primarily, that is based on the uptake in electric vehicle technology and legislation from different governments really pushing for electrification. The market is growing; the demand for lithium battery cells and fuel cells is certainly growing. Based on those projections, NDC embarked on this development project to bring out new, innovative technology that will help processes of these battery cells.


To hear more from Joseph—including the advantages of the photon sensor and the importance of highly accurate measurements to battery manufacturing—listen to the full conversation at the Cambridge EnerTech podcast.