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Fire at Ultium Cells Battery Plant Raises Questions on Laser Notching Process

A fire broke out at the Ohio-based Ultium Cells 1 plant, a joint venture between LG Energy Solutions and General Motors (GM) for electric vehicle batteries, according to industry sources. This is the first incident of its kind to be reported to the public. The fire, which occurred at the end of last month, was contained by the facility’s sprinkler system, preventing it from spreading throughout the plant.

While some facilities and equipment involved in the assembly process were damaged by water from the sprinklers, the impact on overall plant operations is anticipated to be minimal. However, the recovery of normal production levels may take some time as damaged equipment parts are replaced.

The affected assembly process, known as “notching,” involves cutting battery materials into suitable shapes following the electrode plate coating process. Ultium Cells exclusively uses laser notching, which is more cost-effective in terms of maintenance but requires more expensive equipment, such as an infrared wavelength fiber laser source. Additionally, a dust collector is necessary due to the fine gas particles, or “fumes,” produced during the process.

It is believed that these fumes generated during the laser notching process may have caused the fire. LG Energy Solutions is currently the only battery manufacturer that uses laser notching for both anode and cathode components. The incident has raised questions within the industry about the continued use of laser notching, particularly as Ultium Cells prepares to begin operations at a second facility and is constructing a third plant.

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