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Micro-roll forming of stainless steel bipolar plates for fuel cells
journal contributionposted on 2019-02-05, 00:00 authored by Buddhika AbeyrathnaBuddhika Abeyrathna, Peng Zhang, Michael PereiraMichael Pereira, D Wilkosz, Matthias WeissMatthias Weiss
Stainless steel bipolar plates for use in proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells have been identified as a lighter and cheaper alternative to graphite plates. Current manufacturing of metal bipolar plates by hydroforming or micro-stamping leads to excessive stretching of the material and therefore limits the channel depths that can be formed. Low channel depths for the bipolar plates will result in low overall fuel cell efficiency. In comparison, the bending-dominated deformation mode present in roll forming provides the potential to form metal bipolar plates with less thinning and to greater channel depths. In this work, the roll forming process is employed for the first time to form thin stainless steel sheets to micro-scale channel sections of the kind required for bipolar plates. This paper describes the process and machine design as well as the establishment of the forming methodology. Experimental trials are performed and the final part quality is evaluated in terms of material thinning, longitudinal bow and cross-sectional shape. The process was numerically analysed to understand the causes of the forming problems and shape defects observed in the experimental trials. The results of this work show that roll forming of micro-scale corrugated bipolar sheets is feasible. Furthermore, the findings provide a summary of both the practical difficulties and the possible advantages of using micro-roll forming to manufacture improved thin metal micro-corrugations for bipolar plates.