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Sunstone Engineering’s new battery welding system paves way for copper and nickel tab welding

5 min read

Sponsored by Sunstone Engineering

Sunstone’s new Omega PA250i battery welding system can do what other welders struggle to accomplish: Attach copper to steel or aluminum. By using a pure copper tab to connect one power cell to another, EV manufacturers will realize a significant boost in power cell efficiency.

So why do most EV manufacturers shy away from copper?

Solving the Copper Paradox

From our days in high school chemistry class we learned that when it comes to conductivity, copper is king. No other non-precious metal accommodates the flow of energy like copper. The high conductivity of copper tabs improves the performance of the power cell, because the flow of energy from the power cell to the EV’s other systems meets less resistance. Power efficiency gets a huge boost when using copper tabs.

The paradox to copper’s love for energy is the challenge of attaching it to other metals. Quite frankly, copper doesn’t play well with other metals. Achieving an acceptable weld is difficult, which is why many manufacturers turn to mixed metal tabs for the production process. Using mixed metal tabs reduces efficiency but speeds the production process. In short: Manufacturers were forced to compromise.

The Omega includes new welding technology, developed by Sunstone, that clears a path for EV manufacturers to utilize pure copper or nickel tabs in the production of power cells. 

“The Omega opens up new possibilities for EV manufacturers,” says Jonathan Young, president of Sunstone Engineering. “They can take advantage of the conductivity benefits of copper or nickel tabs without affecting production levels. With the Omega, they can now develop a significantly more efficient power cell and produce it just as easily as any other. Battery performance is paramount to the consumer experience, which can differentiate one’s products in a competitive market.”

Surprise and Excitement in the Lab

Larin Dodgen, who heads up Sunstone’s development team, knew the changes made to the hardware and software would improve weld results. “Feedback from our customers and things we learned in the lab was driving our development efforts in the right direction,” he says. “But the results from our first test exceeded my expectations. So much so that I got this big smile on my face. When I shared the results with the other engineers, we all got pretty excited.”

The Omega’s welding technology is built on the foundation of Sunstone’s 15 years of development and production of battery welding systems. “The Omega’s ratio of successful welds to failed welds is 15 times better,” says Dogen. “Electrode performance is infinitely improved over our previous system. And the full PLC capabilities provide more control with customized input and output for high production.”

Absolute Digital Control

“The specificity of the Omega is the key to why it is able to consecutively produce optimum welds,” says Young. “A successful weld, for any type of metal or combination of metals, is the result of being able to adjust and tinker with every known contributing factor. And now, with the Omega, the technology is automatically adjusting the welder based on the materials involved to create an optimum welding result.”

As with many of Sunstone’s micro welders, the Omega PA250i is controlled by a mounted touchscreen interface. The operator can digitally control all aspects of the weld, from power to waveform to agitation. Specific to the Omega, when the operator enters the type and thickness of the metals to be welded, the Omega will automatically set the weld parameters for an optimum weld for that combination of metal and thickness.

The Omega’s digital control also provides the operator with the ability to save welds, and then load and apply those settings to similar jobs in the future. Weld settings can also be cloned from one unit to another, which saves time in setting up production processes.

The Advantages of Versatility

Another advantage to the Omega is its versatility. it’s not just a key instrument for the R&D team. It’s not just a welder for a small or mid-size production floor. And It’s not just a smart cog in an automated production facility. The Omega PA250i can be configured in three different ways to match the needs of the manufacturer.

For research and development, the stylus configuration provides the lab with 5X optics and pulse arc welding technology. “R&D folks love the Omega for its ‘fly-by-wire’ digital control,” says Young. “They also like the optics that make evaluating the weld results easier.”

For small to mid-size production floors, a weld held configuration may be more suitable. The operator uses the Omega to control the weld head with simple foot pedal inputs. “The weld controls can be locked,” says Young. “So, a production manager can set the weld parameters and know they can’t be adjusted, which would affect production quality and consistency.”

And for large-scale, automated production facility, the Omega PA250i, with its PLC capabilities, connects to a CNC-mounted weld head. The system can be cloned to create additional systems to increase production volumes. “The Omega is a smart welder, production-ready, PLC-capable, and can be an integral part of any large-scale manufacturing process,” says Young.

Turning a Cold Shoulder to Solder

Another key advantage is the heat affected zone. For the Omega, because the weld is small, concise, and short, the area surrounding the weld is minimally affected. For battery cells, the heat affected zone is important to individual cell performance. When a tab or connector is attached to cell excessive heat over a prolonged period of time is detrimental to cell performance.

While soldering’s heat affected zone is large and prolonged, in terms of time, a weld’s is small and short. When you view a soldered tab through an infrared camera, the heat affected zone becomes quite clear and pronounced. “An infrared image dramatically illustrates the advantage of a weld over a soldering,” says Young. “It’s alarming. You’ll never want to solder again.”

The other advantages of welding over soldering is a cleaner work area. Soldering is messy, more expensive, and produces toxic fumes. A weld, on the other hand, is clean and more efficient.

Samples Tell No Tales

EV manufacturers can request a sample from Sunstone to demonstrate the advantages of the Omega battery welding system over other production processes. “I can talk all day long and spin a great story,” says Young. “But if I put an actual sample in your hands the story telling turns to factual illustration.”

Requests for a sample can be made by calling or texting +1-801-658-0015 or visiting www.sunstonewelders.com/Omega-sample.

Sponsored by SunstoneEngineering

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