Lighter, faster, longer may well be the battery industry’s version of the Olympic motto, and Irish company PPI Adhesive Products Limited is helping manufacturers to achieve the gold medal standard. The company’s range of novel adhesive products, with properties uniquely suited to the needs of the industry, is helping to achieve the goals of faster charging, higher capacity, longer life, and lighter weight.
Electric vehicles (EVs) are playing a central role in the global push for decarbonisation but the limitations of battery technology have been among the key reasons for relatively poor consumer uptake.
So-called range anxiety and cost have been identified as the main issues for the majority of consumers. Fear of being left stranded far from home with a dead battery has dampened demand, while unease in relation to the expected life of the battery itself has added to cost concerns.
Challenges of improving battery performance
This, in turn, has led the industry to deliver quite dramatic improvements in battery performance in recent years. The latest generation of EV batteries now boasts a range of 450 km, up from 300 km just a few years ago, and automakers are already scheduling models with 600 km ranges and longer. Battery life is also being extended considerably.
But these advances come in the face of significant challenges, not least of them weight. Simply making a battery bigger and heavier will not solve the problem. Increased range must be achieved while actually reducing the weight of the unit.
Another issue is heat. Higher-capacity batteries must be capable of charging quicker, and that generates heat, which must be channelled away from the battery.
PPI Adhesive Products is supplying materials which address these issues to a number of battery manufacturers in Poland. The company was established in Ireland in 1970 and has developed a global presence in 52 countries, with manufacturing and research and development activities based in Waterford.
The company produces a very extensive and sophisticated range of technical adhesive tapes, laminates and die-cuts for a wide range of applications, most notably in the electrical, electronic, aerospace, automotive and medical sectors. PPI Adhesive Products also produces a wide range of tapes for specialised industrial and high-tech applications. Among its main strengths is its ability to produce customised tapes and die-cut pieces to individual customer specifications, including small quantities for short runs.
The company’s research arm is engaged in the continuous development of new self-adhesive products and production techniques both for PPI and specific customers.
PPI Adhesive Products finds solutions for customers in the battery industry
The thermal management and electrical insulation challenges faced by the battery industry were not new to PPI Adhesive Products. “We had been dealing with these issues for a number of years in the floodlighting area,” explains PPI’s Polish representative Andrzej Palúch. “We started targeting thermally conductive materials about ten years ago and developed an adhesive with a very good thermal performance. That enabled us to develop the knowhow to find new solutions for customers in the battery industry.”
That in turn led to contact with Enterprise Ireland. “We knew that the battery industry had problems with heat, and we spoke to Enterprise Ireland about that. They put us in touch with a Polish battery manufacturer about three years ago. We started out by sitting down together and discussing the problems they had and how PPI Adhesive Products could help.
We started using the same materials as we used for floodlights. They have very good thermal conductivity and electrical insulation properties.”
That marked the beginning of a close relationship between the two firms. “We soon started developing other materials for them,” says Palúch. “They told us they were building a new faster-charging battery but had yet to solve the heating problem. Nobody wants to use resin, as it is very heavy. Everybody wants to cut the weight of the battery. The want a material that is not heavy but has very good characteristics. We were able to give them that. Many companies offer thermal conductivity but not electrical resistance. We offer both.”
PPI Adhesive Products is now working with three other customers that have battery manufacturing plants in Poland. And these will soon be joined by a number of other companies with plans to establish facilities in Poland.
Palúch says, “It’s very interesting how many new companies want to open plants in Poland to manufacture batteries. It’s amazing, but very good for us.”
PPI Adhesive Products is already developing its next product for the battery industry. “It’s a special membrane that allows the pressure inside the battery to go down and up during charging and discharging. It allows heat and pressure through, while also being waterproof. Our focus this year is on the new plants in Poland. We are also working on batteries for white goods. That is a very interesting area as they face different technical challenges, which we are solving for customers.”
Ryan Shaughnessy describes how he helps US companies to source innovative solutions for their challenges in his work as a market advisor for the industrial technology sector, based in Enterprise Ireland’s Chicago office.
What are the main trends shaping industrial technology in your region?
Manufacturing output is up 4% in the US this year, which is driving general growth in the area. More specifically, we are seeing a lot of IT-related growth, as a result of widespread demand for innovative solutions that address major challenges.
As a result of the trend towards autonomous driving in the automotive sector, for example, manufacturing is moving away from more traditional methods and incorporating technologies from the IT area.
In farming, we are seeing the development of new agritech solutions, as technology is used to increase yield and help those in the area to maximise efficiencies and be more productive.
How do you work with Irish and US companies?
Advisors use regional and local expertise to help Irish companies to adapt solutions for partners in markets like the US. We also hold events to introduce potential US partners to Irish companies that can help them with their specific challenges – which is really a form of matchmaking!
Who are you working with at the moment?
I am working with a number of great Irish companies, including Ventac, a noise specialist who sells into the automotive sector. Another Irish company is Cubic Telecom, who are very strong in the Internet of Things (IoT) and connectivity solutions. They are are strong examples of what innovative Irish companies offer the US car manufacturing industry.
Why should US companies want to work with Enterprise Ireland?
We offer in-market and international experience, knowledge and networks.
As someone from an Irish business said to me recently, we are essentially an extension of the companies we back. We support and develop the most innovative Irish companies with funding and mentoring to become a well-resourced extra arm of the company. We work with them through their entire journey, from starting out to scaling up, and our resources help them to deliver the best solutions for clients in international markets.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I can honestly say that there is no typical day. For example, yesterday I had a meeting with an Irish company who has a business plan for the North American market. Earlier in the week, I was in the Carolinas helping a client who is in the process of setting up an office, which is due to open next year. During that week, we met local developmental associations, attended a trade fair, and also met potential customers to discuss their needs.
What I love most about my job is being able to use my past experience in distribution, sales and marketing, and business development to help the companies I support. It’s really rewarding when a client comes to me with a plan for the US market and asks me to analyse it. After a period of time, their plan is underway and they are growing sales while solving problems for US customers.
I love the travel element too and feel very lucky to work with some of the most cutting-edge technologies from Ireland and helping to introduce it to the US.