Lithium-ion electrodes are made with surgical precision: A stainless steel knife is used to apply a paper-thin (150-micron) layer of well-mixed slurry onto a foil substrate, while radiation gauges monitor and control the mass applied. Once the slurry is dry, a calendaring system (with feedback from laser thickness gauges) thins electrodes down to their design specification. These super-thin electrodes are then packed tightly into cells, resulting in a huge overall surface area and batteries with very high energy densities.
While the production process for lead-acid is completely different, there’s no doubt that higher-quality plates (that meet or exceed design specs for thickness and flatness), produce higher-quality batteries.
Some of the latest lead-acid battery designs do in fact incorporate high-precision production techniques to pack plates tighter, add more plates to each cell, and to get better effective surface area contact. Still, the lead-acid industry as a whole has not kept pace with advancements in Li-ion: the typical specified thickness tolerance of Li-ion electrodes is +/- 2 microns (25 time tighter than lead-acid).
Of course, material differences between the two battery types make pasting lead-acid electrodes with the same level of accuracy impossible. But an easy doubling of precision can be achieved simply by using an automated control system equipped with the right software and laser gauges.