Because the lithium battery copper foil companies own technical advantages are superior to the overall level of the industry, the products it produces are in a state of short supply. The structural shortfall in supply may make the third-quarter performance of the head lithium-ion copper foil company increase month-on-month until the official announcement. At the same time, the voice of composite copper foil is getting louder. However, the large-scale application of composite copper foil will be at least after the second half of next year, and the replacement process still needs to be done.
1. Lithium battery copper foil industry ushered in differentiation
Due to the damage to the terminal automobile industry chain caused by the impact of the epidemic, the performance of the lithium battery copper foil industry in the second quarter grew weakly from the previous quarter. But recently, the head lithium battery copper foil factory has recovered in the third quarter. Overall, industry experts said that the overall capacity utilization rate of lithium-ion copper foil in the third quarter was 98.71%. The price of lithium battery copper foil is mainly composed of copper price and processing fee. A relevant person from the head lithium battery copper foil company said that the processing fee is mainly driven by demand. Because of the rebound in demand, the overall processing fee in the third quarter is slightly better than that in the second quarter.
Another person from a lithium battery copper foil company said that the current lithium battery copper foil will not explode like the fourth quarter of last year, but the market is indeed picking up. A relevant person from a copper foil company also said that orders in the third quarter increased significantly, but it is not clear whether it will be implemented in the third quarter. In addition, for the entire industry, high-end products such as 4μm and 4.5μm have increased in both year-on-year and month-on-month data, and the processing fees of high-end products have remained relatively stable. This means that the quarter-on-quarter growth of the top lithium-ion copper foil company's performance in the third quarter only needs to be officially announced.
First, the processing fee has recovered, the second is that the capacity utilization rate has returned to a high level, and the third is that the increase in the penetration rate of high-end products brings a premium. With the commissioning of new production capacity in the fourth quarter, the supply and demand of medium and low-end lithium battery copper foil will tend to balance. The high-end high-purity ultra-thin copper foil is limited by technical requirements, and the current situation of short supply is difficult to change in the short term.
Experts further analyzed that the reason why the top lithium battery copper foil enterprises are recovering while the industry as a whole is still declining is because the technical advantages of the leading lithium battery copper foil enterprises are superior to the overall level of the industry, and the products they produce are in a state of short supply. Such differentiation may intensify under the ease of supply and demand of lithium battery materials.
According to SMM estimates, China's lithium battery copper foil market may have a surplus of 27,000 tons in 2022. A relevant person from the lithium battery copper foil company admitted that the entire industry is actually expanding production, but if it is related to the digestion of production capacity, the leading companies must have greater advantages, including product quality, stability and other aspects.
2. The replacement of composite copper foil still needs a process
With the industrialization of composite copper foil, the market believes that under the trend of ultra-thin lithium battery copper foil, composite copper foil is expected to become a new choice for lithium ion battery anode material companies in China. Composite copper foil refers to a new type of material that makes a metal conductive layer on the surface of plastic film PET and other materials. Compared with traditional electrolytic copper foils, lithium batteries with composite copper foils as anode current collectors have the advantages of low cost, high safety, long life and high energy density.
In the future, with the improvement of the yield and efficiency of composite copper foil, the unit cost of composite copper foil still has room to drop. At present, the demand of battery companies for lithium battery copper foil has stabilized. The replacement of traditional copper foil with composite copper foil means that lithium battery products need to be adjusted according to the requirements of composite copper foil. However, compared with traditional copper foil, the yield of composite copper foil is low, and the actual production cost is close to that of traditional copper foil, which does not have a price advantage.
In the later stage of composite copper foil, on the premise of improving safety, the yield of products can be improved, and the production cost and sales price of products can be reduced, which will create greater possibilities for composite copper foil to replace traditional copper foil. Another person from a lithium battery copper foil company believes that it is still too early to talk about the replacement of composite copper foil. First, the production end needs stable batch production to achieve cost reduction, otherwise the cost is very high; second, because the middle of the composite copper foil is a polymer material, there is a welding problem; the third is the problem of customer process adaptation.
CATL in top 10 lithium battery companies expects to purchase no less than 20,000 tons of 4.5-micron and 5-micron high-end lithium battery copper foil from the company in 2023. As for the prediction of future market space, the unit consumption data of composite copper foil is converted according to 6μm electrolytic copper foil. Predicting the penetration rate of PET composite copper foil, it is conservatively estimated that the demand for PET composite copper foil in 2025 will be 2.9 billion square meters, and the market space will be about 17.4 billion RMB. Under optimistic conditions, the market space is expected to reach 29 billion RMB in 2025.
3. Relevant composite copper foil equipment manufacturers have benefited
In the industry, the materials are not moved, and the equipment is the first. Due to the different material structures of composite copper foil and electrolytic copper foil, the core production equipment and process of composite copper foil are also different. The equipment required for the raw foil link of electrolytic copper foil is a raw foil machine (cathode roll). The equipment required for composite copper foil is physical vapor deposition (PVD) equipment such as magnetron sputtering equipment and water electroplating equipment.
Among them, in less than a month, Dongwei Technology has disclosed that it has received orders exceeding 1.7 billion RMB for the "bilateral sandwich type horizontal coating equipment" required for the production of composite copper foil. It is estimated that in 2025, the market space for PET copper foil vacuum magnetron sputtering equipment is about 3.34 billion RMB, and the market space for copper plating equipment is about 4.65 billion RMB. The relevant person of Dongwei Technology said that the above-mentioned equipment has been delivered in the past two years, and it is used for pilot lines and production.
Because it is a non-standard product, the equipment delivered by different customers is different, and the production time is also different, which takes about 3-6 months. Relevant research reports pointed out that Dongwei Technology is currently the only manufacturer in China that can mass-produce roll-type horizontal coating equipment for the preparation of composite copper foil. The single-machine equipment has a yield rate of 90%, and its double-sided sandwich-type equipment is about to be released. The first magnetron sputtering equipment is expected to be delivered quickly.