A UK company specialising in heat storage is taking its first steps towards scaling-up the manufacture of its groundbreaking ‘thermal battery’ technology.
Caldera, based in Hampshire, has engaged the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) to design a heat cell gigafactory to mass manufacture its low-carbon heat storage system at scale.
The company plans to begin commercial production in 2025, and scale up rapidly thereafter, with thousands of heat cells being rolled out UK-wide.
James Macnaghten, Caldera’s chief executive, said: “To date, all of our manufacturing has been on a near-bespoke unit-by-unit basis, which is labour intensive with a high unit cost.
“In order to drive down costs and meet growing future demand we need to explore how we can scale rapidly, and automate as many processes as possible.
“A great benefit of our system is it is modular – our electric boiler is made up of multiple highly insulated cells, each of which is relatively small at around two metres high – and this really lends itself to manufacturing at scale.”
In June, Caldera was awarded £4.3m from the UK Government to develop its groundbreaking industrial heat storage technology.
The heat cells are made of scrap aluminium and volcanic rock. They take cheap, green off-peak electricity, and on-site solar, and store it, ready to be released as hot water or steam when required.
The technology has already been piloted in homes across the south of England, where small-scale boilers delivered low carbon hot water and heating to a number of domestic customers.
Caldera is using the £4.3m million fund to build a full-scale industrial electric storage demonstrator – comprising up to 20 heat cells – at its Hampshire base. The demonstrator will deliver process steam between 80C and 200, the ideal temperature for around 31% of the UK’s total industrial heat demand, in sectors including pharmaceuticals, food manufacturing and brewing.
The MTC specialises in advising business on the latest manufacturing techniques and Caldera has now brought the MTC on board to design a new gigafactory to mass produce its electric boiler for a UK and global market.
This will involve the MTC devising an efficient and lean method of manufacturing (MoM) and assembly for high volume production; the design of a suitable factory layout; and then simulate in 3D the manufacture and assembly sequence of the product as a ‘virtual build’.
It is anticipated this will include automated production with robotics and state-of-the-art-processing.
Work on the project is already underway, Caldera says, and will complete in late 2024. This will the company a ‘greenprint’ for production facilities, which can be built in the years ahead.
Macnaghten added: “Industry is a major user of heat, and typically this is provided by steam boilers that burn gas or oil.
“Our product delivers process heat at the sweet spot which many industries need. With continuing pressure to decarbonise we believe there will be strong global demand for Caldera’s electric storage boiler which offers a low cost, low carbon alternative to fossil fuel.
“Our partnership with the MTC will enable us to design a gigafactory with the very best technologies and processes baked in. Once demand for our product has risen sufficiently, we will then be able to build the facilities we need to scale up rapidly and roll out a commercial product with a vast potential market worldwide.”
MTC’s director of power and energy, Matthew Kite added: “We are delighted to be supporting Caldera in such a high-profile project, to rapidly automate and upscale their processes, ultimately in support of decarbonisation.
“We have a proven record across many different industrial sectors in defining efficient manufacturing operations, and management and assembly, for volume production. [T]his project aligns perfectly with the MTC’s support of the UK’s drive to ‘net zero’, where we are also working in many sectors such as hydrogen, nuclear power, offshore and onshore wind and in clean maritime.”
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