The scope of this research is to demonstrate how a company should efficiently face the development of a new product. We analyzed the decision making process in each phase of product and business development, based on a hierarchical framework meant to increase efficiency and cutting wastes and costs. The research has focused particularly on thin film battery development, showing the direction that R&D should pursue, driven by new born opportunities and future trends. We have worked as a research group, that is required to develop a battery for different products. We analyzed each step of the design and engineering of thin film battery.
As a first thing, we performed an extensive literature review of the current state of thin film batteries. We wanted to have a specific understanding of the strengths and competitive advantages of a thin film battery, and of the weakness as well. We investigated the latest development in terms of electrode and electrolyte materials and deposition techniques. Furthermore, we considered both the commercial available technologies and the ones that were still in development, to better understand the direction that the thin film battery sector was taking.
Once that we had the full picture of the product and the market, we focused on finding the right market for this system. We described the new trends and market sector that thanks to the development of new technologies and the spread to the mass of others, have managed to rise in the last few years. On example are the wearable devices; thousands of product with different purposes have disrupted the market, generating new needs in the users. Especially for the smartwatch devices, the battery has been a crucial point since their first appearance. All that concentrate of technologies and sensors has a large power demand, which current li-ion batteries struggle to achieve. Hence, our research has focused to find market sectors where there was an impellent need of a new kind of battery. We performed extensive market research, trends analysis and literature reviews to better understand where to point our focus, always keeping in mind which were the advantages brought by a thin film battery. Five potential markets have been identified: wearable devices, smartphones, smart credit cards, healthcare patches and gas sensors.
Once that our targets have been determined, we started the development of the product, following a hierarchical framework. This framework is divided in 5 main phases, where at the end of each of them there is Stage-Gate™ step, meant to ensure efficiency and to stop the development in case it is not worthy. We started gaining some insights on the product, and what users want and need to determine the product qualitative and quantitative attributes. In this phase, a close collaboration with any target product manufacturers would be beneficial in order to efficiently develop a suitable battery. We outlined a lists of all the power and qualitative requirements for each target product in order to be able, in the following phase, to determine the battery design input information.
The third phase represents the defining moment of the development. Product attributes must be translated in battery specifications. The translation happens in 4 different ways. The more accurate ones would be by direct translation or by a mathematical model. On the other hand, sometimes we have to make some assumptions or generate an arbitrary value to relate a product specific to a battery characteristic. Essential to this phase is the heuristics, which plays a pivotal role in the development. Heuristics is the summary of what is known by experiments or by experience.
Once that the battery input information have been determined, we proceeded with a cross matching with the materials database in order to pre screen the suitable materials for the battery. The final structure of the battery has been determined using an optimization software, which will determine the best materials according to one objective function, which should be minimized or maximized. In our case we decided to minimize the cost.
As a results we obtained suitable materials for almost every application. For mobile phones, the battery would have been to expensive, hence thanks to the optimization simulation we know that pursuing a battery development for smartphones in this right moment wouldn’t be wise due to non competitiveness of the thin film battery versus conventional li-ion batteries. On the other hand, for smartwatches, smart cards, healthcare patches and especially for gas sensors the results were promising. For gas sensors the battery has as cathode LMO, LLZO as electrolyte and Li metal as anode, in a total thickness of 0.55 mm and a capacity of 35mAh. We generated a case study for Bluetooth Gas sensors as well, where the most suitable battery was similar to the one for conventional gas sensors, but with a much higher capacity to keep up with the Bluetooth power need. While for healthcare patches, where safety is of utmost importance, the best battery structure included LFP as cathode, LLZO as electrolyte and LTO as anode thanks to the high level of safety guaranteed by these materials.
This research is wrapped up with a full business plan, which highlights different sales and marketing strategy. Again, the scope of this research was to show the direction that the solid state battery market is taking, while suggesting different ways to improve the business development process. The results obtained are theoretical and surely more research is needed to bring these batteries to the market and to make sure that the experimental results coincide with the theory results.
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