Assessment of the Current Level of Automation in the Manufacture of Fuel Cell Systems for Combined Heat and Power Applications Page: 4 of 25
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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is interested in supporting manufacturing research and
development (R&D) for fuel cell systems in the 1-1,000 kilowatt (kW) power range relevant to
stationary and distributed combined heat and power (CHP) applications, with the intent to reduce
manufacturing costs and increase production throughput. To assist in future decision-making,
DOE requested that the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) provide a baseline
understanding of the current levels of adoption of automation in manufacturing processes and
flow, as well as of continuous processes. NREL identified and visited or interviewed key
manufacturers, universities, and laboratories relevant to the study using a standard questionnaire.
The questionnaire covered the following topics:
" Current level of vertical integration
" Importance of quality control developments for automation
" Current level of automation and source of automation design
" Critical balance of plant (BOP) issues
" Potential for continuous cell manufacturing
" Key manufacturing steps or processes that would benefit from DOE support for
" Potential for cell or stack design changes to support automation
" The relationship between production volume and decisions on automation.
Companies with known advanced levels of adoption of continuous processes or automation are
referenced in appropriate sections of the report as comparison cases. In addition to the
manufacturers, two automation companies were also interviewed to understand the critical
factors for automation from the design and implementation perspective. Both of these companies
have experience working with fuel cell manufacturers.
Table ES-1 summarizes key information about current and projected production capabilities at
these companies for the fuel cell systems of interest.
Detailed information about the manufacturing status and directions of the key manufacturers are
presented in two sections-one summarizing the status of automation for cell and stack
manufacture, and the other for BOP and system manufacture. As noted above, the manufacturers
were asked what specific development areas would be the most effective in reducing
manufacturing cost and/or improving throughput and quality. Tables ES-2 and ES-3 summarize
these results for cells and stacks (ES-2) and BOP and systems (ES-3).
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Ulsh, M.; Wheeler, D. & Protopappas, P. Assessment of the Current Level of Automation in the Manufacture of Fuel Cell Systems for Combined Heat and Power Applications, report, August 1, 2011; Golden, Colorado. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc840320/m1/4/: accessed October 15, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.