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ACI-Ecotec has developed Ecocontact, which can automatically make a thin-film photovoltaic (PV) module in less than 40 seconds.

Ecocontact can apply small pieces of adhesive tape for attaching bus bars – helping to save up to EUR100000(GBP89000) a year in adhesive materials.

Because of the large capital-expenditure involved, production systems for thin-film photovoltaic modules must operate as efficiently as possible.

And that is where Ecocontact comes in.

Ecocontact comprises standard components for applying conductive adhesives, longitudinal and lateral contacting and soldering bus bars, in accordance with the corresponding production technology.

These components can be combined in a flexible way to manufacture all common thin-film module sizes.

The substrates are transported and precisely positioned using a multi-lane conveyor belt.

The patented Ecocontact system is already being used in more than ten factories for thin-film PV modules.

The conductive adhesive is applied via two dispensing heads at speeds of between 40 and 70mm per second, with ongoing monitoring of the needles.

Any bumps or irregularities in the surface of the glass plate are automatically levelled out.

Thanks to the controlled, high-precision application, only around one gram of adhesive is required for a substrate that is 1300 to 1400mm long.

Because the CNC heads operate autonomously, the position, length and distance between the adhesive strips can be programmed flexibly.

This enables the application of more than two adhesive strips without modifications.

Following application of the conductive adhesive, the substrate is automatically indexed and aligned for longitudinal contacting.

The tin-plated bus bar is applied using reels holding up to 380mm of material, minimising downtime caused by changeovers.

To maintain the required tension between the continuously spinning reel and cyclical application of the bus bar, the system has an integrated bobbin.

This detects if there is insufficient bus bar left on the reel and stops the machine automatically, minimising substrate waste.

To prevent the bus bar from breaking loose until the adhesive has cured at more than 100C in the laminator, it is fixed with specially designed adhesive tape.

In conventional contacting, this tape is applied along the entire length of the bus bar.

However, ACI-Ecotec automatically cuts small pieces of tape from the roll, removes them from their backing and sticks them onto the bus bar at predefined points.

This can save up to EUR100,000 a year and increase system availability.

Exactly the same technology is used for lateral contacting.

Afterwards, at a different workstation, the bus bar contacts are soldered together and their ends turned upwards or downwards, in accordance with the customer’s specifications.

The glass cover can optionally be applied automatically.

Like the adhesive-dispensing station, the standard components for longitudinal and lateral contacting are fitted with two autonomous CNC units for attaching the bus bar.

ACI-Ecotec allows production to continue while maintenance work is being performed on one of the dispensing heads or application components.

Each Ecocontact module is based on a stable steel structure with an integrated switchgear cabinet.

As well as saving space, this design enables rapid implementation of the contacting system.

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