Motors, drives and motion control: Moving ahead at Solar Power International trade show

Flexible automation shines brightly for solar-cell manufacturers.


San Diego, CA — Attendees at the Solar Power International 2008 Trade Show in the San Diego Convention Center on Oct. 13-16, 2008 got to see advances in automated photovoltaic-generator manufacturing equipment. "Solar manufacturers are contemplating the next critical steps in their production processes to remain competitive and prepare for the growing demand for solar product,” said John Dulchinos, president and CEO of Adept Technology Inc. “With the integration of automated handling and inspection, this new technology will give manufacturers vital tools to improve efficiency and continue the trend to lower the cost of solar cells.”
Dulchinos was referring specifically to his company’s new solar cell inspection technology , which he said integrates high-resolution 2D and 3D solar cell inspection with advanced handling applications. The inspection system was shown integrated with the company’s Quattro s650 robot handling high speed solar cell transfers, as well as in a stationary demonstration unit. Both demonstrations incorporated a high resolution, high-speed image capture system provided by LMI Technologies. The company says its robot is ideal for handling, assembly, sorting, loading, unloading, testing, inspection, tabbing, stringing, scribing and dispensing applications.
Also at the trade show, FANUC Robotics America showcased its intelligent robotic solutions designed for the solar industry and other green technologies. In a virtual exhibit, the company highlighted its range of products available to automate the production of solar panels.

According to Rush LaSelle, general manager, FANUC Robotics West, industrial robots are now used to automate a multitude of processes required throughout the entire supply chain in producing a solar panel. “Manufacturers of green technologies are looking for a common platform across a broad product line to meet their production needs.”
The company says it has over 200 robot model variations with payload capabilities ranging from 2 kg to 1,200 kg, as well as simulation packages, application software, controls and integrated vision products. “We are able to provide alternative energy manufacturers and suppliers a competitive advantage compared to manual processes, hard automation and offshore manufacturing,” LaSelle added.
He claimed the technology offers many key advantages to green technology manufacturers, such as:
• Reduced costs by eliminating costly and inflexible fixed automation;
• Quick production startup with proven robotic technologies to bring products to market faster;
• The ability to design to small batch sizes by using robots to process and transfer components and assemblies;
• Eliminate errors and scrap with integrated machine vision for cost effective in-line process validation;
• Optimized overall system throughput with best-in-class speed and performance;
• Increased system uptime with unmatched reliability and support
C.G. Masi , senior editor
Control Engineering News Desk
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