Ube Industries, Ltd. has decided to expand its production capacity for lithium-ion battery separators at its Factory in Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture, in order to meet growing demand for lithium-ion batteries used in automobiles. The expansion will take place after the current construction of new production facilities for separators at the Sakai Factory, with the expansion project expected to be completed in April 2018. The expansion will bring the combined total production capacity for separators at the Ube Chemical Factory and Sakai Factory to 250 million square meters annually.
|Electric and hybrid vehicle growth is fueling demand for lithium ion battery separator films.|
Ube Industries began manufacturing UPORE separators at the Ube Chemical Factory in Ube City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, in 1994. It has gradually increased production capacity at the site in line with the expanding market for lithium-ion batteries. The company also started production of separators at Sakai Factory in 2013. With these two factories in Japan, the company has delivered a stable supply of products while responding to growing demand.
UPORE has a uniform microporous structure, developed using UBE’s proprietary technology, and comes in either single or multi-layer membranes. UPORE is manufactured using an environmentally friendly dry process (lamellar crystal stretching) that does not use solvents or inorganic fillers. The use of polypropylene and polyethylene layers delivers low-temperature shutdown and high-temperature heat resistance. A uniaxial stretching method is used, resulting in no traverse direction shrinkage. Membrane thickness and permeability can be modified as required by customers.
Demand for lithium-ion batteries used in automotive applications is projected to grow significantly, for use in hybrid vehicles (HVs), plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHVs), and electric vehicles (EVs), with actual demand growing at this time. Furthermore, lithium-ion batteries are projected to be increasingly used in applications such as energy storage systems and industrial applications.
Ube Industries manufactures separators using a dry process and its separators are already widely used in automobiles. In 2011, Ube Industries and Hitachi Maxell, Ltd. established Ube Maxell Co., Ltd., located in Otokuni-gun, Kyoto Prefecture, as a joint venture to manufacture high-performance coated separator films. Ube Maxell is recording steady growth in sales volumes of high-performance coated separator films in markets in and outside of Japan, including being used in lithium-ion batteries for the fourth generation Toyota Prius.
Ube Industries has positioned the separators business as an active growth business under its latest medium-term management plan that it began implementing in the current fiscal year. By expanding production capacity for separators in a timely manner to meet growing demand, Ube Industries will further enhance its presence in the growing market for automotive applications. Ube Industries plans to increase its total annual production capacity for separators to 300 million square meters by around 2020.
Other suppliers of separator film include Sumitomo Chemical and Asahi Kasei E-Materials.