Silicon Valley Startup Plans 3D-Printed Solid-State Battery Gigafactories
Silicon Valley startup Sakuú says that it has set up a pilot facility for 3D-printed solid-state batteries — the first in the world. That approach would be a big twist in the battery world if commercially competitive, both because solid-state batteries have been little more than a futurist’s dreams up till now and because 3D printing has not been the method of preference for manufacturing batteries. So, until real scale and commercial competitiveness is achieved, it will only be natural for battery industry followers to approach Sakuú with a full-sized helping of skepticism.
That said, Sakuú reports that it did just open “a state-of-the-art multi-faceted engineering hub for its battery platform printing initiatives in Silicon Valley” and claims that this hub will “serve as the gateway for at-scale battery printing gigafactories around the world.” It wouldn’t be the first technological marvel to come out of Silicon Valley.
While plans are as good as a contract written with disappearing ink in the tech world, a pilot battery production facility Sakuú opened a year ago is already producing 3D-printed solid-state batteries for real customers. The new “engineering hub” will take that to the next level and act as the company’s true headquarters. “The new facility will showcase two of Sakuu’s flagship products. First, Sakuu’s innovative Kavian platform — the world’s first at-scale 3D printing platform capable of rapidly printing safe, ultra-high energy density solid-state batteries in custom shapes and sizes. Second, Sakuu’s non-battery manufacturing platforms capable of producing medical devices, IoT sensors, and other cutting-edge electrical devices — produced in a highly sustainable and efficient manner.”
Sakuú had raised $62 million by the fall of last year. “Using its newfound investment, the company aims to fund the launch of its first-gen solid-state batteries (SSBs) in H2 2022, as well as the future release of its second iteration battery 3D printer,” 3D Printing Industry writes. “The company appears to be on the track it has planned out. With twice the energy density and 30% less weight than existing Li-ion cells, the firm’s second-gen batteries have potential residential and industrial applications, within energy storage, microreactors and electronics.” Sakuú is also targeting use in electric vehicles as well, but no clear partnerships have been noted at this point.
As far as scale, the young company aims to reach a battery production capacity of 60 GWh by 2028. That’s almost double the
NEW this morning – our #SVLG member @sakuucorp announces the opening of its new engineering facility to scale 3-D printing of solid-state batteries.
This printing is designed w/ sustainability in mind & will enable more energy storage and other key tech!https://t.co/0yWaookXFq
— Energy & Enviro. @ Silicon Valley Leadership Group (@greenSVLG) August 4, 2022
“We are in a rapid growth phase due to strong demand for our forthcoming printed batteries,” said Sean Sharif, VP of Global Supply Chain and Logistics. “Our new facility paves the way for our first 3D printing platform gigafactory, dubbed Sakuu G-One. The facility will allow our teams to fine-tune all aspects of our battery printing technologies to enable swift deployment of our gigafactories.”
The new 79,000-square-foot engineering hub will be focused on improving battery production and design — including acting as home to teams focused on engineering, material science, and additive manufacturing. It will also be where new gigafactory employee training and client product demos take place. “It is estimated to house 115 employees by the first quarter of 2023.”
“Sakuu is committed to building an extremely talented workforce that wants to be part of our reinvention of sustainable energy production,” commented Founder and CEO Robert Bagheri. “We are on a mission to build a company and brand that is driven by transformative products that can leave an impactful legacy for societal and environmental change.”
On June 7, Sakuú announced that “its first-generation non-printed lithium metal battery has achieved continuous 3C discharge rate under extensive testing.” CleanTechnica‘s Steve Hanley, covering the news at the time, wrote, “Based on the company’s Kavian platform, the rapid printed batteries will enable customizable, mass scale, and cost effective manufacturing of solid-state batteries while solving fundamental challenges confronting battery manufacturers today. Sample cell deliveries are anticipated to ship to clients in 2023.”
Earlier in the year, the company announced a big battery energy density milestone. “Sakuu, developer of the world’s first 3D printed solid-state battery, today announces the benchmark energy-density achievement of 800 Wh/L in its first-generation non-printed lithium metal battery. This marks a significant milestone on Sakuu’s roadmap to fully 3D printable solid-state batteries capable of greater than 1200 Wh/L by 2023. Until now, market-leading lithium-ion batteries, like those found in today’s top-selling electric vehicles, have functioned in a range of 500–700 Wh/L,” the San Jose company announced on March 15. “Sakuu battery’s Wh/L capabilities have increased exponentially since development began in August of 2020, and with this latest benchmark test completed in February 2022, is more promising than leading commercially available batteries.” Does reaching 800 Wh/L mean the company can get to 1200 Wh/L? There’s no guarantee of that, but it sounds as though the company is making rapid progress.
Is Sakuú a hot new battery company to watch? I wouldn’t be writing about it if I didn’t think so. They are far from the finish line. Mass production of commercially competitive batteries is no easy feat, and solid-state batteries have been an elusive (yet massively hyped) dream for more than a decade. Throwing 3D printing in, a first glance at the news this week threw up a number of yellow, red, and orange flags. However, the closer I looked, the more intrigued I got. Could Sakuú be the real deal?
Alongside the June news, CEO Bagheri said, “As far as our solid state battery development, we are preparing to unveil a new category of rapid printed batteries manufactured at scale using our additive manufacturing platform. The sustainability and supply chain implications of this pioneering development will be transformational.” With big claims, one must bring big proof. Not being one of Sakuú’s clients, we can’t confirm the viability of Sakuú’s tech and plans. However, real-world progress is being made and the initial plans are becoming reality. If the CEO thinks what they are doing is “transformational,” it is on him and his team to bring that to life, but most transformational tech starts in someone’s head, and much of it comes out of Silicon Valley, California.
“We are on track to develop that ‘holy grail’ solid-state battery by 2023, and this first-generation benchmark is a validating accomplishment on the roadmap to significantly better batteries,” Bagheri said in March.
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