What do I get for my tooling dollar? This question (in one form or another) is one that gets asked frequently. Tooling is always a concern for the customer. It’s an added cost which cannot be converted to sales and ultimately, the bottom line.
The cost of custom tools used in battery pack manufacturing ranges greatly. However, tooling is a necessity for most projects and encompasses items such as set-up fixtures, films, electronic preparation of production data for manufacturing (CAM), molds, welding fixtures, CNC machine programming files, production jigs, specialized equipment and the list goes on.
Let’s compare two different types of battery pack manufacturing tooling expenses, more specifically assembly tooling. One type is considered low cost and the other is of much higher cost.
Low Cost Battery Pack Tooling
Gluing, assembly, and molding fixtures are shown below. These are generally considered low cost tooling for battery pack assembly.
Low Cost Battery Pack Tooling Fixtures
The term ‘low cost’ should not be considered cheap, low quality, or flimsy. But rather should be viewed as materials which take minimum machine work to create. These are made from off the shelf materials which can perform and function with dimensional repeatability, in this case FR4, LDPE, PVC and Acrylic. All examples above required some type of machine work to produce, however programming and cutting times are kept minimal due to complexity.
Choosing the proper materials to make the custom tooling is generally the responsibility of the manufacturer producing your custom battery pack. There are several reasons why a certain material is chosen to produce the custom tool/fixture. Some of which are cost, projected life expectancy of the tool (how many duty cycles is it expected to perform per day/month/year), material compatibility to the product (ESD concerns, chemical resistivity) the environment in which the tool needs to perform (UV process, heat cured product, extreme vibration), etc.
The up side to this type of tooling approach is that multiple fixtures can be produced without breaking the budget. Generally, time to manufacture all of these types of tools can take less than a week; with most taking only hours to complete. The down side is that the life expectancy of this type of tool is normally in the 4 to low 5 digit ranges.
High Cost Battery Pack Tooling
The images below show two different ultrasonic welding fixtures. The tool on the left is made of an aluminum base and titanium top, measuring approximately 6” in length. The tool on the right is made of aluminum for both top and bottom, the length is approximately 16“long.
High Cost Battery Pack Tooling Options
Tools/fixtures of this type are generally manufactured for extreme duty cycles or tight tolerance requirements from materials such as aluminum alloy, billet steel, or titanium. The material is chosen specifically for the application and must be free of voids, dents, scratches, cracks, etc.
An x-ray analysis is used to inspect the integrity of the metal before any cutting starts. These types of fixtures can take 6 to 10 (or more) weeks to produce. The costs of a tool of this quality are generally in the range of $4K to $12K but can cost less or much more depending on many factors. Some of these factors to consider are; the physical size of the part, base material the tool is being cut from, complexity of tool, the desired end use of the product, cosmetic appearance of the finished product etc.
Tools of this quality have a very long service life expectancy, with cycles in the upper 6-digit ranges and beyond.
When it comes to custom battery packs you need to remember: the more unique your product is, the more custom tooling will play into the cost of manufacturing. When you think of tooling, don’t view it as an added fee, but rather a necessary cost to create your ideal custom battery pack product.