Solicore Prints Thin Flexible Lithium Batteries
According to a 2012 market research report by MarketsandMarkets, the total thin film and printed battery market amounted to just $181.5 million in 2012, however it is expected to reach $1.2 billion by 2017, a CAGR of over +46.14%! In past articles, we covered Blue Spark’s green and disposable carbon-zinc batteries which are just .029 inches thick, and ePlate with their battery powered credit cards. One other company, Solicore, has entered the thin battery space with a flexible lithium battery that is just 0.017 inches thick.
Florida based Solicore took their first round of funding in 2008 which was $5 million in debt financing. Since then, the Company has taken in just over $36 million in funding so far from the likes of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Rho Ventures and Braemar Energy Ventures. In addition to venture capital firms, Solicore has also taken in funding from 3 notable publicly traded companies:
- R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company (NASDAQ:RRD): $3 billion global provider of integrated communications
- Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. (NYSE:APD): $25 billion global provider of process and specialty gases
- Rogers Corporation (NYSE:ROG) $1 billion provider of a range of specialty materials and components for communications
Solicore currently produces millions of coated thin-film batteries in their state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Lakeland, Florida. Their relationship with Rogers Corporation, which was initiated in 2009, was expected to “dramatically increase their manufacturing capacity”. This is notable since as far back as November of 2008, Solicore was capable of producing up to 1.25 million units per month—the equivalent of approximately one battery every two seconds. However, these production methods were soon to be displaced by a much more scalable technology. In 2011, Solicore jointly developed the first-of-its-kind, screen printed thin-film battery. In June 2013, Solicore announced that it had developed the world’s first digitally printed thin-film lithium battery. In response to this remarkable achievement, Dan Tillwick, COO of Solicore made the following statement:
“In the past there was concern relative to the overall market’s ability to scale the supply chain into the hundreds of millions of units, as well as supply the variety of custom designs, that is no longer an area of concern due to the digitally printed battery.”
Solicore can now apparently “print” their batteries, allowing them to mass produce their batteries easily with all the flexibility a printer offers.
Solicore’s “Flexion” Battery
The paper-thin Flexion battery can flex and bend making it ideal to fit inside standard credit, debit and enterprise cards. Solicore’s batteries can be configured in a variety of sizes and capacities to meet different consumer demands.
The Flexion battery has an average shelf-life of three years (the typical life of a credit card) and enough capacity to power tens of thousands of “one-time password” card transactions. The Flexion® product portfolio of advanced ultra-thin flexible lithium polymer batteries will initially target applications in powered payment cards, RFID and micro medical devices. Each of these are large markets that show strong growth potential.
Solicore has a strong IP leadership position with over 75 patents issued or pending that protect their technology. In August of last year, Solicore announced that they were awarded several key patents. One of these patents applied to the printing of the lithium anode within their printed battery. Solicore made the following statement about this patent being granted:
This key technology breakthrough allows for lithium to be transitioned from a sheet or ribbon to a printed media. This new method is the key component to the successful production of both the screen printed and digital printed batteries designed and developed by Solicore.
Solicore published their last news item this past January and since then has gone quiet. It could be that the company is exploring a liquidation event such as an acquisition or an IPO. Solicore has been producing and selling their batteries in high volumes since 2008. 6 years later now, with digital printing capabilities they could be producing 100s of millions of batteries. Although they are not the only player in the flexible battery space, they do seem to be the first company to print lithium batteries which will allow them the scalability and flexibility needed to match the demands of this growing market.
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