General Electric Pioneers the Industrial Internet
General Electric is brining the Internet of Things to the factory floor. At one of its New York based factories, the manufacturing behemoth has installed tens of thousands of tiny sensors, which are collecting real-time data about each step in the manufacturing process. The factory in question is manufacturing batteries.
The sensors in place collect data such as the heat of the factory floor and how much pressure was being applied to certain components. This data is delivered to the operator. The sensors will also alert the operator to quality concerns. The end game of introducing this technology is to ascertain what conditions create the best product outcomes – down to the optimal surrounding temperature.
CEO Jeff Immelt has also spoken of his vision for a “brilliant factory” - a dynamic system in which machine parts constantly relay information to operators, who can schedule maintenance before equipment fails, all the while improving the manufacturing process.
GE also plans to use 3D printers in new factories to customize and print new components, such as metal jet engine parts or plastic tools.
GE is a pioneer in the manufacturing sector when it comes to applying the concept of the Internet of Things. It has even gone as far to coin its own definition of the technology, called the Industrial Internet and has pledged to invest at least $1 billion in its development.
“If we can take an aircraft engine, and if we can get 10 percent more time on wing for that engine, that’s worth billions of dollars to our customers,” Immelt said at the Wall Street Journal’s AllThingsD conference last year. “And the way you do that is through material science, where we’re really good. But you have to be able to do a better job on analytics and modeling failure, and things like that.”
Every new GE factory built from now on will include sophisticated data sensors, and the company is working hard to introduce them to its 400 existing factories worldwide. In order to collect this data and turn the information into real-world results, GE invested around $105 million with Pivotal, a big data management startup, last year.
“One particular part might touch three suppliers and two GE factories,” said global technology director Christine Furstoss — and it’s almost impossible to get all links in any supply chain to use the same data collection software. For GE, “it’s really [about] linking all of those systems together — being able to get the data to look the same, without forcing big systems out onto the suppliers.”
Ultium Cells LLC/Li-Cycle: Sustainable Battery Manufacturing
Ultium Cells LLC - a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solutions - has announced its latest collaboration with Li-Cycle. Joining forces the two have set ambitions to expand recycling in North America, recycling up to 100% of the scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing
What is Ultium Cells LLC?
Announcing their partnership in December 2019, General Motors (GM) and LG Energy Solutions established Ultium Cells LLC with a mission to “ensure excellence of Battery Cell Manufacturing through implementation of best practices from each company to contribute [to the] expansion of a Zero Emission propulsion on a global scale.”
Who is Li-Cycle?
Founded in 2016, Li-Cycle leverages innovative solutions to address emerging and urgent challenges around the world.
As the use of Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries in automotive, industrial energy storage, and consumer electronic applications rises, Li-Cycle believes that “the world needs improved technology and supply chain innovations to better recycle these batteries, while also meeting the rapidly growing demand for critical and scarce battery-grade materials.”
Why are Ultium Cells LLC and Li-Cycle join forces?
By joining forces to expand the recycling of scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing in North America, the new recycling process will allow Ultium Cells LLC to recycle cobalt, nickel, lithium, graphite, copper, manganese and aluminum.
“95% of these materials can be used in the production of new batteries or for adjacent industries,” says GM, who explains that the new hydrometallurgical process emits 30% less greenhouse gases (GHGs) than traditional processes, minimising the environmental impact. Use of this process will begin later in the year (2021).
"Our combined efforts with Ultium Cells will be instrumental in redirecting battery manufacturing scrap from landfills and returning a substantial amount of valuable battery-grade materials back into the battery supply chain. This partnership is a critical step forward in advancing our proven lithium-ion resource recovery technology as a more sustainable alternative to mining, " said Ajay Kochhar, President, CEO and co-founder of Li-Cycle.
"GM's zero-waste initiative aims to divert more than 90% of its manufacturing waste from landfills and incineration globally by 2025. Now, we're going to work closely with Ultium Cells and Li-Cycle to help the industry get even better use out of the materials,” added Ken Morris, Vice President of Electric and Autonomous Vehicles, GM.
Since 2013, GM has recycled or reused 100% of the battery packs it has received from customers, with most current GM EVs repaired with refurbished packs.
"We strive to make more with less waste and energy expended. This is a crucial step in improving the sustainability of our components and manufacturing processes,” concluded Thomas Gallagher, Chief Operating Officer, Ultium Cells LLC.