Boston Power – a case study in guaranteeing manufacturing integrity
06 July 2010
Boston Power is a leading manufacturer of next generation lithium-ion batteries. A complex manufacturing process means that safety testing and quality control is crucial in delivering reliable products. Declan Shalvey of Boston Power, explains how installing a specialised in-line x-ray inspection system has enabled the company to continue to guarantee the safety and reliability of its battery products to its customers.
“There are many things that could go wrong in the manufacture of batteries, especially in relation to the anode and cathode inside the battery. While simple electrical tests can pick up significant faults, latent faults inside the battery where elements may only be slightly misaligned, can be a huge problem and can be very dangerous for users as these latent faults are exacerbated by real world use. Of course, as part of the manufacturing process there is extensive testing on the batteries to ensure that no faults, latent or otherwise, slip through the net. However, these tests can be very inefficient. What we wanted to do as a company was to institute a method of testing that provided 100% in line inspection, improving efficiency, but also guaranteeing the manufacturing integrity of each and every product on the production line. Our customers get a three year guarantee on Boston Power battery products – this necessitates a stringent inspection policy in our manufacturing plants.
X-ray scanning is the best way to see inside the batteries to check on the internal structure and to ensure that there are no problems with each battery.There are over 40 features within the electrical assembly of each battery that need to be checked in order ensure the absolute safety of each product. Moreover, in-line testing means that these checks have to be done in real time, with a seven second window to inspect every aspect of each battery.
As a result we were looking for the fastest, but also the most accurate x-ray system for our production line. We approached 3DX-RAY as they were able to provide an extremely high quality of analysis to the process. Moreover, they were also able to provide a system that would be tailored to our specific needs. We tasked 3DX-RAY to install a full in-line inspection system in our facility in Taiwan, their flexible technology and expertise was key to the successful installation of the inspection system.
3DX-RAY designed and built the system from scratch within eight weeks and it was installed in the Taiwan facility within another two weeks. The system not only included bespoke software but has also been built with flexibility. This flexibility was crucial in two respects: the battery inspection can take place at various stages in the production line, and we have several battery shapes, with the potential for more in future. 3DX-RAY’s equipment has been designed and built with the capability to not only be positioned at various stages of production but also to handle any number of battery form factors.
3DX-RAY’s equipment is now running 24 hours a day, seven days a week in our Taiwan facility. We are producing hundreds of thousands of units per month, with plans to ramp to millions, and everyone is screened using our 3DX-RAY in-line inspection system. Following the installation we have also received ongoing support from 3DX-RAY. This has included use of an in built support system enabling 3DX-RAY to change system parameters remotely as we refine our manufacturing processes more and more.
Ultimately 3DX-RAY’s equipment has enabled us to continue to guarantee the absolute safety and reliability of our products to our customers. As we continue to grow our company and our production volumes, manufacturing integrity simultaneously becomes more important and more challenging to maintain. Having high quality, tailored equipment such as 3DX-RAY’s means that we can continue to deliver the highest standards of product reliability.”