The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) has recently installed a specialist roll to roll line for the printing, coating and patterning of a range organic and inorganic solution based coatings.
The pilot production line is available on an open access basis and will aid the commercialisation of a host of printable electronics applications including photovoltaics, OTFT and printed batteries amongst others. The new installation will allow companies to characterise and optimise coating capabilities using a range of different coating techniques.
The bespoke system which has been custom built by VDL from the Netherlands consists of two pieces of equipment. The first toolset is currently configured for both roll to roll slot die coating and roll to roll rotary screen printing. A unique feature of this tool is that there is no active surface contact during the coating process, thereby eliminating the potential for contact roller damage and defect generation. The second toolset is configured for roll to roll encapsulation utilising bake and lamination techniques.
The coating toolset is configured with web cleaning capability (contact and plasma), two interchangeable print stations, and two convection drying ovens, each 2 metres in length. The print stations are upgradeable for other coating techniques such as flexographic and gravure coating. The machine processes polymeric substrates ranging from 25-250 μm thickness and can accommodate a web width of between 200mm and 410mm. Web tension can be controlled in the range 50 – 350 N.
The slot dies are capable of coating over a width of up to 280 mm, blanket or stripe pattern coating can be achieved by utilising dedicated shims. The slot die heads are compatible with both aqueous and solvent based fluids with a viscosity in the range of 5 - 10,000 cP, and typically produce dried film thicknesses from nanometre scale to 100µm depending on the application. The slot-die heads are also compatible with low pH fluids.
The roll to roll coating line is complemented by a supporting roll to roll encapsulation line designed to laminate films in an oxygen and moisture free environment. This tool builds upon existing batch capability at CPI, providing clients with a flexible environment to scale up their encapsulation process from feasibility right through to cost effective pilot production operations.
This is an exciting addition to CPI’s existing equipment portfolio. This added capability will allow users to investigate and solve the many challenges in moving from batch capability to roll to roll prototyping and pilot production.
The system integrator VDL ETG has assembled a toolset with components from a range of leading equipment suppliers including; Maan Plasma, Teknek, Troller, SPG Prints, and Smit Thermal Solutions. CPI look forward to working with clients to accelerate the commercialisation of coating and lamination processes for printed electronics applications.
Mike Clausen - Programme Manager, CPI
We are delighted with the capability developed at CPI. The industrialisation of flexible electronic devices needed a breakthrough in the design of production tools and the line has been designed to achieve this. For instance, in the system there is no need to touch the active side of the foil and also in the modular approach, the tool allows users to deposit multiple layers on top of each other without winding and unwinding the roll in between.
This capability is extendable to a larger number of coating steps, meaning that defect generation and mechanical damage during the production process is reduced significantly. The automated lamination process in the encapsulation line is also a technology breakthrough.
Our modular approach used enables CPI to adapt the line to the specific application requirements whilst still ensuring low additional engineering costs. The toolsets developed are a major stepping stone in the commercialisation of flexible electronics and VDL is excited that companies of all sizes can now test the performance of their applications at CPI.
Jan van den Brink - Roll to Roll Programme Manager, VDL