Funded by the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Economic Affairs, the research project “ElyFab-BW Plan” is making a contribution to environmental protection and at the same time giving industry in the federal state the opportunity to share in the burgeoning market for electrolysis technology and the ramp-up for energy transition. The first engineering companies working on the construction of electrolysis plants are already getting involved in product development, and preparations are under way in the federal state for the production of the relevant systems, but there are still no models for the serial production of electrolysis stacks. This is where the “ElyFab-BW Plan” project comes in, pooling the required fields of expertise and preparing the ground for industrial roll-out. Work is currently being done at the ZSW on the development of a factory layout as the basis for an industrial production line with an output of 10 to 20 electrolysis stacks per day (approx. 5 - 10 MWel).
The main challenges in terms of the technology include the prefabrication of components, the high-precision automation processes and the assembly of large parts. The relevant experience in production engineering and the handling of materials for the mass fabrication of electrolysis stacks already exists in Baden-Württemberg through the automotive industry. “ElyFab-BW Plan” is therefore keen to attract these companies with a view to harnessing their expertise in developing an industrial factory layout and thereby establishing an effective basis for electrolysis stack production in Baden-Württemberg in the near future.
A long series of manufacturing steps and handling processes is needed to make an electrolysis stack, starting with the manufacture of components from semi-finished metal and plastic products right through to the assembly or construction of the electrolysis stack. The various components and individual assemblies are stacked on top of one another in alternating layers and then clamped together. This stacking procedure is still predominantly a manual process. The components fitted in the electrolysis stack in the assembly process include electrodes, bipolar plates, current transformers, seals, cell frames, membranes, end plates and tie bars. A stack design developed by the ZSW and already tested in practice will be used as an electrolysis stack model for the project. This is suitable for the manufacture of electrolysis systems of up to approx. 500 kWel (approx. 120 cells) and is currently being prepared for industrial duty in the BW Electrolysis project. The design has been patented by the ZSW with full documentation and is therefore a good starting point for the roll-out of the production processes on an industrial scale. The project will continue running until the end of April 2022. There are plans to run an information workshop for companies interested in the project.