Reading time ( words)
Thin Film Electronics ASA, a developer of ultrathin, flexible, and safe energy storage solutions for wearable devices and connected sensors, unveiled the next phase of its strategy to support the commercialization of the Company’s premium microbattery products based on solid-state lithium battery (“SSLB”) technology.
To support the microbattery needs of its target markets, Thinfilm has launched development of its innovative product platform based on the Company’s core SSLB technology and has completed the design of the first product optimized for its initial target markets. This microbattery product, optimized for form-factor-constrained applications such as hearing aids, earbuds, and wearable medical devices, prioritizes market requirements validated in a series of substantive business and technical conversations with market leading OEMs. The Company targets initial revenue shipments based on this product platform, combining Thinfilm innovations in battery cell design and fabrication with novel packaging techniques, by the end of 2021.
The Company can now announce that Thinfilm’s go-to-market initiatives have resulted in signed technology evaluation agreements with potential customers and partners. As the Company proceeds toward commercialization and scale-up of its SSLB technology, leveraging its existing roll-to-roll facility, it has prioritized those engagements with the greatest potential to leverage the energy density, form factor, and cycling advantages of the core product platform. In parallel, the Company’s go-to-market team is engaging global market leaders in additional categories, such as wearables and defense, where Thinfilm SSLB advantages address the limitations of legacy battery technologies.
Thinfilm’s premier ultrathin microbattery is enabled by the Company’s enhanced SSLB product platform. The Company’s technologists have continued to optimize the core SSLB technology platform, including processes, materials, and tools, to target leading microbattery energy densities up to 600 Watt-hours per liter and cycling performance in excess of 1000 charge-discharge cycles. By delivering double the volumetric energy density of legacy lithium-ion coin and button cells, Thinfilm SSLB products could occupy 50% less space and enable thinner, more comfortable hearables and other wearable devices. In addition, the expected rating of 1000 charge/discharge cycles – compared to 300-400 cycles achieved by common lithium-ion devices – means Thinfilm-enabled products could enable overnight charging of hearing aids, earbuds, and other daily-use items over the multi-year lifetimes required to both satisfy demanding consumers and minimize warranty repair costs due to premature battery failure. Furthermore, to address the safety expectations of consumers, manufacturers, and regulators – particularly for on-body wearable and medical electronics – Thinfilm SSLB technology practically eliminates two major safety risks associated with common lithium rechargeable batteries: thermal runaway, which can lead to excessive heat, fire, and even explosion; and electrolyte leakage, which can lead to toxic chemicals contacting human skin.
To support the commercialization of Thinfilm SSLB technology, Thinfilm announced the hiring of two battery industry experts:
Louis Golato joins Thinfilm as vice president, operations and will lead manufacturing scale-up activities related to roll-based solid-state lithium battery manufacturing. Thinfilm’s roll-to-roll production capability in San Jose, California is unique in the SSLB industry and is essential to achieving manufacturing scale in support of the Company’s target applications. Golato brings decades of experience leading factory ramp-up and manufacturing operations in the energy storage and semiconductor industries. Most recently, he served as vice president, manufacturing and operations at grid-scale energy storage company VionX Energy and previously served in executive roles at Stion Corporation and A123 Systems, where he was responsible for launching multiple lithium-ion battery factories worldwide.
Tim Powers joins Thinfilm as senior director, applications engineering and business development and will lead the Company’s customer engagement, qualification, and support initiatives. Powers brings years of direct experience in Thinfilm target markets and will apply his expertise to all aspects of the Company’s go-to-market activities. Previously, as vice president, business development and director, applications engineering at ZPower, Powers led customer engagement and design-in activities for novel rechargeable microbatteries, resulting in pioneering design wins and rapid revenue growth in the hearables and medical device industries.
“Thinfilm warmly welcomes Louis and Tim, both highly experienced battery experts, to our team as we launch our ultrathin SSLB product platform, announce our initial product design optimized for hearables, and accelerate our roll-to-roll scale-up activities,” said Kevin Barber, CEO of Thinfilm. “Based on our steady pace of technological and manufacturing achievements, Thinfilm is excited to broaden and deepen evaluations of our SSLB product platform and first product with leading global brands and innovative startups who can use our unique technology to develop the next generation of wearable devices and connected sensors.”
Although some development has taken longer than initially expected, Thinfilm has made considerable technical progress as a result of parallel innovation in all areas of battery development, including design, fabrication, and packaging. Cell-level testing has met expectations on key battery parameters, including ion conductivity and core energy density. In addition, backend process development activities, encompassing both cell stacking and package encapsulation, have resulted in innovative concepts designed to maximize energy density and maintain reliability within ultracompact footprints.
Based on the breadth and quality of customer input received in its engagements, the Company will now shift focus from building general technology evaluation samples to developing specific products based on the technology platform announced today. With core technical and market building blocks in place, process optimization will continue throughout product platform development, with emphasis on cycle life consistency, increased energy density, and enhanced manufacturability necessary for production. Furthermore, the Company’s operations team has begun executing plans to bring up its roll-to-roll tools, transfer process technology from the Company’s sheet-based production line, and qualify initial roll-based SSLB products in preparation for volume delivery of batteries to customers and partners later this year and into 2022.