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How tools used in other industries can help to stabilise web coating processes in the solar sector

A longstanding contributor to PES, Carl Zeiss is known worldwide for its dedication to quality. In this, the company’s latest submission, it looks at a cross-pollination of technology to bring down costs and maintain performance…

With a longstanding history in the field of large area coating, Carl Zeiss has constantly supported manufactures of web coating equipment as well as the users of such systems to improve the stability of their machines and processes they run.

The OPTOPLEX WEB is a measuring system for in-line process monitoring of optical parameters of coatings evaporated on films in vacuum chambers using roll to roll processes. OPTOPLEX WEB measures the spectral reflectance and transmittance of the coated layer, processes the data in real-time and presents the results (i.e. color values, film thickness, minimum and maximum of a spectrum) in several easy-to-use graphical views. Additionally, it interfaces with the coating equipment control system via OPC. Therefore one can use third party process data presenting software to inspect the results as well.

To survive the solar shakeout it is essential to improve both, factory yield and module efficiency. Beside improvements in glass based thin film technologies roll to roll web processes will come into focus. Outside the solar industry complex coatings are applied in web coaters as well. These are, for example, packaging foils with multi-layer coatings to improve the functionality (i.e. gas diffusion properties) or foils for the automotive industry with complex optical coatings. Process control of the optical properties is a must in these coaters as well.

One way to lower the costs of solar power generation is not only to adopt technologies from these “old” industries but using the same equipment additionally.

One can see the OPTOPLEX WEB system as a standalone solution to improve the process stability of roll to roll processes. Our goal is to simplify the integration into existing equipment and machine concepts and to minimise the time needed for training of operators. On the other hand, the system is part of the big OPTOPLEX family and inherits features from other family members: the OPTOPLEX P in-line monitoring system for large coating on glass substrates as well as the OPTOPLEX Q for quality control integrated in the line.


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