Fuel cells have been around for nearly 200 years, and used commercially for nearly a century. With the growing awareness of the need for more environmentally and energy-efficient power sources, fuel cells are gaining promise as clean energy alternatives in various applications, ranging from transportation and material handling to critical aerospace equipment. This technology uses the chemical energy of hydrogen to cleanly and efficiently generate electricity. As an alternative energy source, hydrogen fuel cells produce only water and heat as waste products – a significant improvement compared to the greenhouse gases produced by traditional fossil fuel combustion-based technologies.

A prominent fuel cell and hydrogen manufacturing company approached Re: Build Optimation Technology to develop test equipment to support their production of hydrogen fuel cells and related equipment such as electrolyzers.


Re:Build Optimation partnered with a prominent fuel cell and hydrogen company to provide design for manufacturing support and produce fuel cell test stands. The company had recently expanded its production capacity with a new gigafactory, requiring additional testing equipment to support its manufacturing of hydrogen fuel cells. Moreover, newer and larger capacity fuel cells required dedicated test stands that had yet to be established.

Throughout the program, Re:Build Optimation collaborated with the client to develop the newer, proprietary, custom-engineered test stands to meet their exact specifications. Re:Build Optimation developed concept models based on the operational requirements to realize the most efficient footprint while maintaining minimum levels of assembly and serviceability access. The client relied on Re:Build Optimation to produce the test stands and provide substantial design-for-manufacturability (DFM) input to help minimize cost and improve performance.

The client required these test stands to test various types of fuel cells, including:

  • Aerospace Fuel Cells
  • Forklift Fuel Cells
  • On-road Fuel Cells
  • Stationary Power Fuel Cells

The Challenge

This program required significant collaboration to uncover the full scope and produce the most advanced and capable test systems. We worked with them to make numerous design and fabrication improvements and solve problems known and unknown. On the design front, interference checking and 3D renderings were instrumental in flushing out the most optimal design. For previously designed test stands, real-time shop floor improvements were suggested during fabrication to improve the assembly process or to rectify interferences.

The most significant hurdle we faced was supply chain issues related to COVID-19. Although these issues are not as prevalent as they once were, during this program, we encountered extensive delays for key subsystems and parts needed to build the test systems.

To address this problem, we actively managed our flow of inbound material and devised creative solutions to mitigate the impact of supply chain delays. Our procurement and materials management team actively managed thousands of inbound SKUs over months and developed kits utilizing visual management to make it obvious where we were still missing materials. Additionally, our project and construction management staff creatively reworked build schedules to keep the program moving forward, allowing missing components to be set into place as they arrived.

Our Process

We worked with our client to initially develop the first articles of two different test stand platforms. This then translated into additional requests for us to co-design and build other sizes and in large quantities. In addition to building more test stands based on the client’s existing designs, we also designed and built entirely new test stands and other manufacturing support equipment – this included creating 3D models and drawings, determining construction materials, and performing all electrical and mechanical work for the different test stand variants. In normal practice, a full set of design drawings is produced from the CAD model and provided to our shop for fabrication and assembly, but in several instances, we did a digital build where the tradespeople utilized the same CAD model as the designers.

The Result

Over two years, this program went from developing a small number of different test stand versions to building over 50 systems in multiple variants. We custom-engineered test equipment with several power ratings, categorized by the fuel cell power they are designed to test – this included power ratings ranging in size from 1 kW to 160 kW, as well as a variety of supporting peripheral equipment. This helped to meet cost and schedule requirements for our customer as they expanded the installation rates of their system.

The program yielded first-of-its-kind, novel testing equipment while facing the challenges of working with a relatively new client amid COVID-19 and associated supply chain obstacles. Our ability to collaborate and address unforeseen issues not only gained us a new client-provider partnership but also illustrated our dedication to the program’s success. The equipment produced during the program was designed exclusively for the client and is being used in fuel cell testing applications in their new facility.

Why Work with Re: Build Optimation

The success of our partnership demonstrates Re:Build Optimation’s ability to provide quality engineering design and development solutions. Since our start in 1985, our highly skilled engineers, designers, and tradespeople have collaborated with clients to deliver thousands of successful projects throughout the US and worldwide. We are ISO 9001:2015-registered and hold a Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) Best Practices certification to ensure the highest level of quality.

To work with Re: Build Optimation for your next project, contact us today.