Force sensors find opportunity in electric vehicles, battery assembly

Force sensor-based testing is becoming increasingly common in many industries during both the manufacturing and quality control phases, so it should come as no surprise that the automotive industry is seeing a growing need for force sensor technology in a variety of use cases.

Force sensors measure mechanical forces occurring in the equipment and processes, as well as the components and products being manufactured. They measure things like load, tension, resistance, weight or total pressure applied, and by using them manufacturers can make sure that processes are executed accurately, machines in factories are performing as designed and expected, and that end product quality assurance is proven. 

In the automotive sector, one of the most important areas where force sensor technology can play a role is in the manufacturing of electric vehicle batteries, as well as testing and monitoring batteries for quality assurance.

Brian Peters, vice president of global sales at Interface Force Measurement Solutions, told Fierce Electronics that the need for force sensors in EV battery applications has grown rapidly as more new automakers and battery manufacturers have appeared on the scene and consumer interest in EVs has risen.

“There's a bit of a renaissance right now where you've got all these startups that on paper can design an EV, but they don't have the internal testing capability,” he said. “ So what we're seeing is increased demand for third party testing in the automotive sector, because you've got all these new players, who unlike the big three automakers don't have massive in-house test labs or testing capabilities.”

During manufacturing, force sensor technology can be used in a variety of ways. Chemical mixing for EV batteries, for example, is a precise science that affects battery performance and reliability.

“On the manufacturing side, we have assisted in providing weighing scale types of solutions for batch weighing during the chemical mixing phase,” Peters said. “So, when they start mixing the various chemical components to manufacture batteries, load cells can be used to monitor basically how much of different batches of chemicals are going together in that mixture.”

Force sensors also may be deployed in the machines that play a role in battery assembly. “When you start to actually assemble the batteries from the different materials, one particular application is around tension monitoring,” Peters said. “Various materials are deployed or rolled in a film type of state. So, you may have a foil or a metal in a thin state that is being rolled or coiled up to wrap a battery element, and a force sensor can be used for tension monitoring in that machine.”

Structural testing of batteries after assembly is another application where force sensors play, as increased scrutiny on battery fires and different collection of government requirements for different countries around the world have created a broadly challenging compliance environment.  “We've done a lot of work on the testing side that goes into ensuring that the battery assemblies are structurally sound to be able to perform well,” Peters said. “There’s a long list of specific requirements these batteries now need to meet.”