Smart automation and AI, enhancing battery manufacturing in the US

Interesting Engineering spoke to the CEO of Viridi Parente Inc., a Buffalo-based battery manufacturer.
Ameya Paleja
  • There are multiple challenges to manufacturing batteries in the U.S.
  • Intelligent automated assembly can help overcome some of these challenges.
  • Apart from making U.S. manufacturers competitive, this can also help reduce geopolitical risks.

At a time when everybody is gung-ho about how artificial intelligence (AI) is radically changing the world of information technology, news about its application in core manufacturing can take a backseat.

As companies in fields like health and transportation tout their race to incorporate AI into their products, the manufacturing sector's use of AI gets less press. However, this sector is also working quickly to adopt these newer technologies.

From automating various elements of production and optimizing supply chains to improving quality control and even developing ways to personalize products for individual customers, AI is rapidly changing the way many manufacturers do business. One of these is battery storage technology.

Viridi Parente Inc. is a U.S.-based manufacturer of safe, resilient, point-of-use battery storage technology for on-demand renewable energy supply. They service a wide spectrum of sectors ranging from medical to commercial and industrial to municipal applications.

Recently, Viridi collaborated with Bright Machines Microfactories, a company founded in 2018, which offers full-stack assembly automation solutions to modernize manufacturing processes.

Bright Machines will leverage big data and AI to automate Viridi's battery assembly, improving efficiency and lowering their carbon emissions.

Logistically speaking, the move is also expected to help Viridi localize its battery production and shorten the time to the market. It will also help the company drive down costs, emissions, as well as geopolitical risks, as it looks to fulfill the demand for electrification and storage batteries in the U.S.

Interesting Engineering spoke to Jon M. Williams, CEO of Viridi Parente, about what makes its battery technology different from that of other manufacturers and how it expects the use of AI to support its manufacturing processes.

Smart automation and AI, enhancing battery manufacturing in the US
Jon M Williams, CEO Viridi Parente Inc.

Interesting Engineering: Among battery manufacturers, what makes Viridi's batteries unique?

Viridi Parente: Viridi's battery pack is based on industry-leading, high-energy density, automotive grade 18650-cylindrical NMC-811 lithium-ion cells from LG Energy Solutions (LGES) in Asia. 

Designed to have a robust life cycle, the cells can operate across a wide range of temperatures, including low-temperature charging, to meet automotive requirements. They are developed without active thermal management, significantly reducing cost and complexity.

IE: Can you tell us more about your fail-safe Li-ion battery system? 

Viridi's Revolutionary Technology uses anti-propagation technology, tested to industry-required UL standards, for deployments in and around occupied spaces. Designed for use as a modular pack system, featuring 48.6 kWh of installed energy capacity per pack, multiple strings can be configured – either fixed or portable – to create the desired storage capacity. Emitting zero noise, the battery system is a 10-year product with a 3,500-cycle life. 

IE: Is there a major breakthrough/advancement that you can tell us about? 

To meet increased power and electricity consumption, Viridi is leading the market in Mobile Energy Storage Systems (MESS). We have developed the RPS150 Skid Mount RPS Power Unit using patented anti-propagation technology. A ground-breaking stand-alone modular device, the unit utilizes renewable energy resources for mobile power backup during peak demand.

Along with providing electricity to the grid, it is ideal for off-grid applications as well. Dubbed a "fuel tank" for electric applications, the RPS150 Skid Mount RPS Power Unit can be used for emergency response, hybrid systems, and non-permanent applications thanks to its portability.

IE: Why are you incorporating automated assembly into your production? What improvements will this bring? 

Manual battery module assembly can be error-prone and cumbersome. By deploying intelligent automated assembly, we can quickly increase throughput, decrease defect rates, and significantly cut production costs. Automation will position us to take advantage of today's renewed focus on establishing battery production in the U.S. 

Smart automation and AI, enhancing battery manufacturing in the US
Viridi's battery manufacturing plant

IE: Why partner with Bright Machines?

Bright Machines' flexible software-driven automation enables the labor efficiencies and increased throughput we need to deliver outsized productivity with a fast payback. Bright Machines gives us a solution that makes it easy to configure, replicate and scale automation, changing the economics, speed, and flexibility of our operations.

We are delighted to partner with companies like Bright Machines that reflect our commitment to innovation and allow us to build batteries in Buffalo, NY.

Smart automation and AI, enhancing battery manufacturing in the US
Smart production with the help of AI at Viridi

IE: What are the challenges of making batteries in the US? What are the benefits of producing batteries in Buffalo?

While there is a growing demand for lithium-ion batteries in the U.S., there are significant challenges to building a robust domestic industry to scale production. Manufacturing lithium-ion batteries in the U.S. is costly due to fluctuations in labor, raw materials, and geopolitical tensions.

The U.S. manufacturing infrastructure requires significant investment and has strict environmental regulations that can make it challenging for battery manufacturers to obtain permits to build and operate facilities. The global lithium-ion battery market is highly competitive, with dominant established players, making it difficult for U.S.-based companies to compete and gain market share.

Smart automation and AI, enhancing battery manufacturing in the US
Viridi's facility in Buffalo

Lithium-ion battery production in Buffalo creates new job opportunities to boost the local economy and reduce unemployment rates. Investing in Buffalo battery production establishes a hub for the clean energy industry, attracting new businesses and investments to diversify the local economy and provide opportunities for long-term growth.

Local production reduces transportation emissions and contributes to the development of a clean energy economy. We strongly believe that Viridi's lithium-ion battery production facility in Buffalo attracts research and development efforts in clean energy and battery technology, leading to the development of new products and innovations in the industry.

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