Tronrud Engineering: Fully automated transport in battery cell production

  • Automated guided vehicle transports crates through a factory.

Driverless transport systems for lithium-ion battery production in the clean room

Electromobility is booming and the demand for batteries is higher than ever. Recent years have shown that the European market urgently needs to catch up with the long-growing lead of mainly Asian battery cell production. In order to do this, more and more battery plants are now being built in Europe.

Automation solutions are the key to keeping pace with rapid technological developments. Tronrud Engineering, a Norwegian engineering company, also knows this. Together with them, we realised the fully automated pallet and container transport with MAXOLUTION® automated guided vehicles for our common end customer - under special conditions.

The joint project of SEW-EURODRIVE and Tronrud Engineering

Tronrud Engineering plant with gray building and a factory.
  • Customer/plant manufacturer:Tronrud Engineering, Norway
  • Sector: Battery cell production
  • Application: Cleanroom AGV for pallet and container transport in the production of lithium-ion battery cells.

More information about our customer:

  • Tronrud Engineering has been developing, manufacturing and supplying automation solutions for more than 40 years.
  • The company currently employs around 150 people at the Eggemoen site and 50 at the branch in Moss, south of Oslo.

Background to the project:

The cooperation between Tronrud Engineering and SEW-EURODRIVE MAXOLUTION® System Solutions has existed for quite some time: prior to the realisation of series production, an AGV test system was installed in a pilot factory of the end customer as a proof-of-concept. After this successful test project, the cooperation was continued.

From test system to series production:

  • Deployment of an automated guided vehicle (AGV) in a complex environment with high cleanroom requirements and numerous interfaces, e.g. airlocks, lifts, continuous conveyors, special machines.
  • Installation of an AGV test system in a pilot factory of the end customer as a proof-of-concept for series production.
  • After successful test: realisation of the material flow in a new greenfield factory by means of AGVs

Innovative automation through driverless transport systems:

  • The end customer, a producer of lithium-ion battery cells, wanted to automate non-value-added activities through automated guided vehicles (AGVs) so that employees could focus exclusively on value-added tasks.
  • The vehicles and other systems in the cleanroom must meet the requirements described in ISO 14644-1 Class 6 (cleanroom classification).
  • Use of the standardised, interoperable VDA 5050 communication interface between fleet manager and vehicles.

Special challenge in the battery plant:

The vehicle-to-vehicle transfer in the airlocks requires precise positioning and sophisticated safety technology. In addition, different levels (ground and mezzanine floor) have to be overcome. For this purpose, the automated guided vehicles (AGVs) including the load are transported in a lift.

Two strictly separated AGV areas:

Different routes distributed throughout the plant ensure that the specified material flow is maintained. There are basically two separate AGV areas: While the AGVs in the so-called "grey area" do not have to meet any special cleanliness requirements, the AGVs in the "white area" are subject to increased requirements according to ISO Class 6. To avoid cross-contamination, load transfer takes place in special airlocks.

A main route is the connection of the central warehouse with the respective production areas (coating, calendaring, slitting, stacking, cell assembly) to supply them with the required materials. In addition, other materials are transported from areas close to the central warehouse to the manufacturing area (battery cases, maintenance materials). Typical materials to be transported are coils of various metal foils, battery cases, separators, etc.

Within the white cleanroom area, the materials are transported to the respective place of use. This is done directly or indirectly: if the material is not delivered directly, it goes through further processes before delivery, e.g. picking/separating and intermediate storage, from pallets to individual small load carriers (KLT). This also involves a transfer from one AGV to another. Furthermore, AGVs are used to transport pallets from the warehouse to the "supermarket" as well as to the cell assembly.

A total of 42 vehicles are used in the first expansion stage - 31 vehicles for pallet transport and 11 vehicles for transporting containers (KLT). The longest distance to be covered is 345 meters, including two lift journeys.

A complete MAXOLUTION® system from a single source:

  • The end customer receives reliable products and vehicles from an established supplier with decades of proven industrial quality.
  • Maintenance-free recharging of vehicle batteries thanks to MOVITRANS® contactless energy transfer.
  • Fast and easy maintenance thanks to standardised and industrial-grade AGV components from the MAXOLUTION® modular technology system of SEW-EURODRIVE
  • Cleanroom solution due to compliance with customer requirements in accordance with ISO 6
  • Reliable, precise and process-safe load transfer in the airlocks - thanks to innovative navigation and safety technology from SEW-EURODRIVE

Shared responsibility - double customer benefit:

Tronrud Engineering and SEW-EURODRIVE share the responsibility:

  • SEW-EURODRIVE is responsible for the platform FTF from the modular system and Tronrud for the load handling attachment as well as the customer-specific interfaces.
  • SEW-EURODRIVE is responsible for the integration of the load handling device and provides a complete vehicle including a declaration of conformity.
  • On site, both partners provide support during commissioning in order to achieve the requirements and goals together. The European and worldwide presence of the two partner companies SEW-EURODRIVE and Tronrud Engineering will also ensure rapid on-site support in the future.
  • Due to the compatible VDA 5050 communication interface, the AGV is able to travel under the SYNAOS fleet manager.

MAXOLUTION® modular system solutions

Several driverless transport systems drive through a light gray minimalist factory

MAXOLUTION® stands for innovative, scalable and future-proof system solutions in the field of mobile and rail-guided materials handling technology. We, at MAXOLUTION® System Solutions, see ourselves as a total solution supplier for driverless transport systems - thus the focus is not only on the vehicles themselves, but also on the associated services from system planning and simulation to commissioning and installed base service.

Following the example of our globally renowned modular system for geared motors and electronic products, the engineering of autonomous vehicles is also based on an innovative, specially developed technology and software kit. This enables us to configure individual vehicles while keeping complexity low.

Voices of our customers

Skule E. Smørgrav – CEO Tronrud Engineering

"For Tronrud Engineering this project is very special, both from a strategic aspect as well as from the technical side. Since the electric car battery manufacturing industry, and the green transformation, is an emerging business, the solutions to all the technical requirements were not readily available on the market. … We chose SEW-EURODRIVE first and foremost because of their experience, competence, and willingness to fully integrate our technologies into one seamless unit that meets all the customers’ requirements. The fact that they are used to adapting their vehicles to a wide range of applications, and their encouraging attitude to running pilot projects and find solutions together with their partners, made the choice for Tronrud an easy one. I’d also like to highlight the importance of SEW-EURODRIVE Norway in this regard as a key partner who made sure the right information reached the right people in both SEW-EURODRIVE Germany and in Tronrud Engineering."

Cato Horten – Sales / Senior Project Manager at Tronrud Engineering

"At Tronrud we are always looking for challenges and this was a new area for us. We are familiar with conveyors, but using them in addition to an AGV was something else. ... A key strength of Tronrud is that we can run internal tests within a few days to check the function, which is a big advantage as we have the entire production in-house. The transfer of 1000 kg from one AGV to another AGV was also a challenge, but through several tests and collaboration, a solution was found. Tronrud Engineering chose SEW-EURODRIVE because the company is known for its quality and support. The mutual understanding and transparency make the challenges easy to overcome."

The interviews with our customers in full length

Skule E. Smørgrav – CEO Tronrud Engineering

Managing director of Tronrud Engineering, Skule Edvard Smørgrav
Skule Edvard Smørgrav, CEO at Tronrud Engineering

1. What makes this project special from a technological point of view?

"For Tronrud Engineering this project is very special, both from a strategic aspect as well as from the technical side. Since the electric car battery manufacturing industry, and the green transformation, is an emerging business, the solutions to all the technical requirements were not readily available on the market. The staying power required for all the steps in this project from a technological point of view required us to partner with a supplier that had a suitable vehicle portfolio, who also had the interest and competence to further develop the vehicles to meet the stringent requirements in this industry, like heavy loads in a clean room environment. It was also vital that our partner allowed full technical integration between their vehicle and our custom-made material handling systems built on top of these vehicles, and the seamless control of both the vehicles and the material handling system."

2. Why did you choose MAXOLUTION® from SEW-EURODRIVE?

"We chose SEW-EURODRIVE first and foremost because of their experience, competence, and willingness to fully integrate our technologies into one seamless unit that meets all the customers requirements. The fact that they are used to adapting their vehicles to a wide range of applications, and their encouraging attitude to running pilot projects and find solutions together with their partners made the choice for Tronrud Engineering an easy one."

3. What were your personal highlights in the project and in the cooperation?

"For me there are two clear highlights in the project between SEW-EURODRIVE and Tronrud Engineering. The first, and most important, was seeing how the engineers and project managers from Tronrud, the engineers, technicians and product responsible from SEW-EURODRIVE Germany, and the team from SEW-EURODRIVE Norway also worked flawlessly together to bring this project to fruition. As in any project there have been multiple technical and organizational challenges, but our two companies have worked tirelessly to solve them all through good communication and the right attitudes from all the people involved. The second one was seeing the AGVs operate at the customer’s facility, doing their job with the vehicle and our material handling system functioning flawlessly. I’d also like to highlight the importance of SEW-EURODRIVE Norway in this regard as a key partner who made sure the right information reached the right people in both SEW-EURODRIVE Germany and in Tronrud Engineering."

Cato Horten, Sales / Senior Project Manager at Tronrud Engineering

Sales / Senior Project Manager from Tronrud Engineer, Cato Horten
Cato Horten, Sales / Senior Project Manager at Tronrud Engineering

1. What is special about this project from a technological point of view?

At Tronrud Engineering, we are always looking for challenges, and this was a new area for us. We are familiar with conveyor systems, but using them in addition to an AGV was something else. Our approach to new projects is always that it is feasible, we just need to find out how. When we understand the customer's requirements and build on them to put together the right team, it does not take long time to see the final solution. Another key factor in this project was ISO6. At the beginning, we didn't fully understand the requirements, but when that was clear, it was easy. Another topic was the load itself and how the pallet can be secured on the conveyor belt. One of the key strengths of Tronrud Engineering is that we can perform internal tests within a few days to check the function, which is a major advantage since we have the entire production in-house. The transfer of 1000 kg from one AGV to another AGV was also a challenge, but through several tests and collaboration, a solution was found.

2. Why did you choose MAXOLUTION® from SEW-EURODRIVE?

Tronrud Engineering chose SEW-EURODRIVE because the company is known for its quality and support. In other projects, we have always received trouble-free and quick support. When we started this project, we immediately felt that we could work together, understand each other and work toward the same goal. At Tronrud Engineering, we have always said that when you have control of the product, don’t let it go before you need to, and that is why we asked SEW-EURODRIVE to transport the fully loaded AGV in our elevators from one level to another. We have never done this before, but it is possible, was SEW-EURODRIVE's response, and we can see today that it works very well.

3. What were your personal highlights in the project and in the collaboration?

The cooperation with a German company at the level we have achieved in this project is new to us and I also think for SEW-EURODRIVE. The mutual understanding and transparency make it easy to overcome the challenges that arise during the course of the project. At this level of business, there are major differences between SEW-EURODRIVE and Tronrud Engineering, but everything is possible through understanding and acceptance. We also see that the opportunity for even closer cooperation in the future is something we want to do together. Working with AGVs at this level was new to Tronrud Engineering, and I think SEW-EURODRIVE was new to working with a system integrator. We appreciated this very much.

Products and Solutions

Platform vehicle with attached and integrated roller conveyor

Flat Platform vehicle with attached and integrated roller conveyor
  • Dimensions: L = 1400 mm, W = 1200 mm, H = 600 mm
  • Transfer height roller conveyor: 500 mm
  • Max. load capacity: 1000 kg (incl. Load handling device)
  • Max. speed: 1.5 m/s.
  • Chassis: Bidirectional
  • Positioning accuracy: +/- 2 to 10 mm
  • Comprehensive safety technology for the entire vehicle:
    • Safety scanner tamper control
    • Integrated safety controller for fulfilling various safety functions such as speed-dependent protection zone changeover, safely switched off torque, safe speed and more
    • Complete integration of the load handling device into vehicle safety
  • VDA 5050 interface
  • Cleanroom compatible according to ISO 14644-1 Class 6
  • MOVITRANS® spot inductive charging technology as a surface-mounted solution in combination with lithium-ion batteries
  • Laser SLAM navigation in combination with laser parking and fine positioning using data matrix code, especially for safety-relevant areas: Vehicle to vehicle load transfer

MOVITRANS® for automated guided vehicle systems

Various installation options for MOVITRANS® components in conjunction with automated guided vehicles

The MOVITRANS® inductive power supply enables automated guided vehicles to be supplied with energy without contact. The energy consumption is wear-free, either at standstill or during travel over energy-supplied tracks.

Your benefits:

  • Optimum number of vehicles by avoiding downtimes (e.g. Charging during travel or load transfer)
  • Simple and decentralized installation
  • Installation in the floor or on the floor possible
  • Maintenance-free
  • Suitable for sensitive areas (e.g. Cleanroom, food industry)
  • Automatic energy-saving mode

Learn more under.

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