Samsung SDI is reportedly considering a collaboration with a Chinese firm to develop a new manufacturing method for small batteries used in smartphones, tablets, and laptops. The focus is on “stacking” technology, which arranges battery materials in layers, akin to stairs. This method has previously been employed in electric vehicle batteries and is now being explored for smaller batteries to increase energy density and extend battery life.
Industry sources revealed on April 19 that Samsung SDI is assessing a Chinese equipment company for the layered production process, to be utilized for small pouch-type battery production at its Cheonan facility. Performance evaluations are underway for two Chinese firms, while South Korean competitors have been eliminated from consideration. Chinese equipment manufacturers are establishing South Korean corporations to support Samsung SDI.
Until now, Samsung SDI has solely produced winding-type batteries by interweaving small batteries with materials such as cathode materials, separators, and cathode materials in a jelly roll configuration. Medium and large-sized batteries initially used jelly rolls as well, but around 2020, a stacking method was introduced to layer anode, cathode, and separator materials like a staircase. This marks the first time the method is being applied to small batteries.
The stacking process can increase energy density by over 10%. For instance, a Galaxy S smartphone with a 5000mAh battery capacity could be boosted to over 5500mAh using stacking. However, specialized notching equipment for making tabs of anode and cathode materials and stacking equipment for proper lamination of these materials are required.
Industry analysts suggest that Samsung SDI had considered Chinese equipment makers from the outset, as a separate pilot line was established at their Tianjin facility in China, utilizing local battery equipment company Yinghe Keji. An industry source stated, “The Chinese pilot line is for mass production testing, and the production line plans to use the South Korean Cheonan plant.”
Samsung SDI aims to expedite its efforts to target major smartphone manufacturers, including its primary customer Samsung Electronics, with this new small battery construction method. In recent years, Samsung Electronics has continuously expanded battery procurement sources such as LG Energy Solutions, China’s ATL, and BYD, in addition to Samsung SDI.