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Efficient Automation Solutions for the Solar Industry

KUKA Systems supplies new innovative photovoltaic solutions

The PV industry is striving for thinner wa-fers and high efficiency photovoltaic cells. In addition to the need for higher automation and reliability KUKA Systems’ Energy Team has designed a new generation of wafer gripping solutions which is based on KUKA’s top selling KR Sixx and Scara Robots.


Two new gripper technologies will be introduced in 2009:

High Speed Ultra Thin Gripper
This extremely thin and robust solution made of carbon fibre allows high speed gripping and precise positioning at one time. Integrated multiple vacuum chan-nels ensure firmly gripping of the wafers for fast movement and soft holding for accurate positioning.

A special configuration allows an easy rotation through the centre of the cells for placing in cell carriers for wet benches, CVD applications or others. By using carbon fibre, a gripper thickness of 3 mm is made possible, which combines robustness and flexibility at the same time. Hence single wafers or cells can be picked from carriers from any position.

Touchless Gripping and Transport
High efficiency cells require an extreme handling sensitivity combined with high speed handling. For this purpose, KUKA relies on the solution of German Zimmermann & Schilp combining ultrasound with vacuum technology: An ultra-sonic cushion ensures non-contact gripping and avoids wafer warp and vibration while fast and accurate pick and place operations are carried out.

By touching the cell from only one side the edge contact is minimized during the whole transport. Furthermore the Ultrasound Air-Bearing-Technology allows different substrate sizes in one machine and high distances during the picking process. It features low energy consumption as well as a high throughput: cycle time is less than one second per wafer.

Benefits of the solutions
Both solutions are designed for robustness and reliability which are basic re-quirements for the needs of high automation. Due to a very low demand of compressed and cleaned air the systems have a large advantage compared to other solutions based on the Bernoulli technology. Due to the non-contact grip-ping the need of repair or spare parts is limited to a minimum as suction cups or cushions are no longer in direct touch with the cells or wafers. Hence costs for spare parts and services remain at a low level.

“With production conditions becoming ever more demanding, engineering com-petence takes on ever greater importance”, says Albert Vontz, Product Group Manager Solar Technology at KUKA Systems. “Therefore we offer flexible solu-tions that are tailored to the specific processes in the solar industry and opti-mally adapted to the customer’s needs. The new gripper technologies are only one example out of a big pool of KUKA solutions”.
KUKA Systems’ Energy Team is specialized in supplying turnkey solutions for the solar industry. Its core competencies are the analysis, modelling and optimi-zation of complex production processes that are integrated and supported on site.

KUKA Systems at SNEC
KUKA Systems will be attending this year’s SNEC PV Power Expo. From May 6 until 8 it will be displaying the Touchless Gripping and Transport at the trade fair in Shanghai. The system can be inspected while in working process.
The KUKA Systems booth will be located at Shanghai International Expo Center in Hall E6, No. T6102.

More Information:

KUKA Systems
KUKA Systems is an international supplier of flexible robot-based automation systems for the automotive, aerospace, energy and general industries. Some 3,780 employees worldwide work on ideas, concepts and solutions for auto-mated production and the provision of products and services for virtually all tasks in the industrial processing of metallic and non-metallic materials.
The range is presented and marketed internationally via the subsidiaries and sales offices in Europe, America and Asia.
KUKA Systems recorded an order volume of around 855 million Euro for the 2008 business year.