Semi-flexible substrate handling and processing

Flat Panel Display (FPD) manufacturing

The Flat Panel Display (FPD) manufacturing industry has stringent requirements for the handling, processing and inspection of glass; where glass can be considered a semi-flexible substrate. Precision, non-contact handling of the glass is required for both optical inspection and for LCD printing.  Vacuum pre-loaded air bearings control the vertical height of the glass within < 5 µm for inspection. Vacuum grooves, distributed within the bearing,  are used to improve vertical stiffness during printing. This also allows high speed transport at fixed height while avoiding take-off. Similar techniques are also used in Photovoltaic Solar Panel processing.

> Precision zone conveyor air bearings

FPD conveyor air bearing

Contactless web handling R-to-R

Printed electronics

In the electronics industry high throughput printing on large rolls or webs is replacing batch processing to fabricate substrates on a larger scale. Air turns offer an alternative to conventional rollers which utilises porous media to provide a thin and stiff cushion of air that supports moving substrates. Air is pushed through millions of micron-scale holes and allows a web to turn up to 180° without ever contacting a roller. They eliminating the friction and wear associated with conventional web handling rollers; avoiding any mechanical contact with the substrate, substantially reducing defects and contamination in the roll-to-roll production cycle. They also exclude vibration and charging effects.

> Air turns

Roll to Roll Air turns

Web stabilisation

Printed Electronics

In printed electronics production lines, webs typically vibrate in the vertical direction over 300 microns. For in-line inspection or processing these web vibrations should be stabilised below 10 microns. Vacuum pre-load air tables suck the web onto a cushion of air and reduce vibrations even to micron level stability. Nanometer inspection can be achieved in foils; including when moving at 10 m/min foil velocity.

> Precision zone conveyor air bearings

Web stabilisation - Air bar