+ Pilot roll-to-roll bespoke application for Conductive Films

CondAlign is a Norwegian company developing conductive films and related products.

The company turns existing materials into high value products, through a patented technology to align particles in polymers. The product can be described as a double-sided tape with anisotropic (through-plane) conductivity.

E+R delivered a pilot roll-to-roll machine, implementing the patented CondAlign technology. CondAlign’s business is based on technology and product development, before licensing to customers, so the specifications for the machine cover a broad range of materials handling and production requirements.

CondAlign works with a range of products to customers from several market segments. This can be electrically conductive tapes and substrates as well as thermal interface materials to the electronics industry, biocompatible films to the health care sector, and membranes for gas and liquid separation. The application areas will define the required material properties for each film such as conductivity, elasticity, light weight, softness, transparency, adhesiveness, resilience to harsher environments or biocompatibility. The production process also requires high accuracy, and the thickness of the film is often less than 100 µm.

Genesis Air - Lab Series R&D
GENESIS AIR - LAB SERIES R&D for Coating application and development

The machine can run coating thicknesses from 5 µm to 3000 µm with an accuracy of less than +/-2 µm. This required accuracy meant that all machining and assembly had to be to the highest level. The E+R team have also added motor control to the calendar nip roller, that adjusts the height based on a sensor on either of the rollers. The software and motor adjust compensate for the small amount of variation remaining in the set up.

The main challenges faced in upscaling the CondAlign technology, from a prototype to this pilot line:

  • Accurately handling film thicknesses from 5 µm to 3 mm
  • Producing films to +/- 2 µm tolerances
  • Coating onto release-coated substrate with low surface energy
  • Pumping fluids at a broad range of flow rates and viscosities
  • Prevent particles from aggregating in the solution before coating
  • UV curing thick samples

Achieving even particle distribution in the sample, requires that the particles be dispersed in a liquid polymer until coating on the substrate. A storage tank with variable speed agitator keeps particles in suspension.

The machine cures the samples with two LED UV lamps, providing curing from the top and bottom of the sample. When running at the maximum sample thickness of 3 mm there were concerns that the UV would not penetrate to cure the whole sample. For this reason, the second UV lamp is capable of being reversed so it illuminates from underneath the sample.

Another issue is the tendency of some of the polymers, once coated onto the film, to retract into ‘islands’ rather than remain as a homogenous layer, leading to visual defects in the final product. In order to address this E+R incorporated a modified version of their slot die applicator which allows CondAlign to position the applicator at varying distances from the calendar nip according to which polymer is being used and which eliminates this phenomenon as a result.

Article kindly provided by Morten Lindberget, VP Bus Dev & Sales, CondAlign.

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