Roll to Roll Processing and Contactless Web Handling
Roll-to-roll (R2R) technology has been around for several years, however to this day it continues to be extremely valuable across many industries. The range of R2R solutions on the market appears to be increasing at a rapid rate but fundamentally the process involves printing, or the transferring of media onto a flexible material by the roll. In the converting industry, this can be through multiple rolls but along the same web path. This blog will explain to you what R2R processing is, its value and the latest breakthrough technology in this area.
What is it
During this type of processing a material gets unwound to go through the rollers to be cut, laminated, coated and so much more. Once this process has taken place, this flexible material gets rewound. Although this sounds simple, most R2R processes are much more complicated. Compared to other methods, R2R offers a host of advantages such as increased yield and reduced labour. This is due to the multiple steps R2R processing can do in one, without affect the quality of the final product.
For the easiest and most high-quality processing, automation is the key feature in many systems. Whether it’s vision systems or web tension, automation allows these machines to understand each other and work well together. A similar example would be web guiding, their controllers and guides cut down on waste and saves time, and this process has now been adapted even further. As well as this, slitting and winding play a key part too; the material is being cut into the correct size pieces whilst it is being unravelled, this not only saves time and money but is safer for staff too. In R2R processing it is key that the web tension is correct; up-to-date tension controllers are key. Finally, vision systems are automated quality checks to ensure everything is processed at the best quality.
From fabrics to plastics and much more, R2R processing is useful for a number of materials and will help a range of industries. The converting industry as a whole benefit widely particularly in the production of flexible substrates, including paper, film,
plastic, glass, and printed circuits.
The evolution of contactless R2R web handling
Depending on the application there can be limitations with standard roll to roll (R2R) products such as idle rollers, turn bars and tension bars. Many high-tech semiconductor manufacturers involved in the production of flexible films and foils used in battery production, fuel cells and biomedical devices for example demand that contact with the web (particularly post-process) is kept to a minimum. Hence the industry is looking for new solutions to carry and convey the media along a given web path.
Contactless web rollers can introduce a number of valuable benefits within a roll to roll process:
- Fully contactless/ frictionless operation means the chances of scratching or contaminating the web is kept to a minimum, therefore increasing production yield.
- By adjusting the positive pressure to the air turn is possible to optimise airflow, web suspension and precision web tension.
- The air turn can be used to reduce the effects of wrinkling and necking of the web.
- Air Turns are great at reducing the vibration within the web hence are commonly used to stabilise the web with amazing accuracy.
- As they are a non-contact solution with no moving parts there is a big reduction in maintenance.
Particular industries that are likely to benefit from this technology include:
- Printed Electronics – flexible film and foil manufacture
- Precision commercial printing – coating, drying and conveying
- In-line optical inspection – stabilisation and precision tension control
If you have web material within an R2R production that is sensitive to contact and contamination or have a process that requires accurate web tension and stabilisation then contactless static web rollers are likely to be the solution you need.
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