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How Non-Contact Air Turns are Converting the Converting Industry

How Non-Contact Air Turns are Converting the Converting Industry

A New ‘Roll’ for Non-Contact Air Turns in the Converting Industry

In the mid-2000s, New Way® Air Bearings launched a line of Porous MediaTM air bars that revolutionized glass handling for the Flat Panel Display (FPD) Industry. At the time, FPD engineers were desperately trying to reduce damage caused by contact during the processing and inspection of large glass substrates.

New Way’s non-contact handling solution virtually eliminated damage, helping to increase yields and reduce costs at the point of sale for flat panel TVs, computer monitors, and other consumer electronics.

The same sort of revolution is now underway in many of the industries that employ roll-to-roll (R2R) technologies in the manufacturing of next-generation consumer electronics devices. A natural extension of New Way’s successful non-contact FPD glass solution, air turns are now
converting the converting industry.

How Air Turns Work

Air Turns R2R ProcessingIncreasingly, R2R production methodologies require both active and passive non-contact handling. This is precisely what air turns were designed to deliver.

Using New Way’s Porous Media TechnologyTM, a thin, stiff air film is created above the air turn’s cylindrical surface, which features millions of sub-micron-sized holes. Clean Dry Air is transmitted through these holes, distributing air pressure equally across the surface, and supporting the moving substrate without contact.

By avoiding mechanical contact, the defects and contamination prevalent in R2R production can be virtually eliminated.

Air Turns Are Converting an Array of Industries

The non-contact nature of the air turn makes it ideal for the conversion of film, foil, paper, plastic, glass, nonwovens, and other flexible, web-based materials, notably for applications in industries including:

  • Semiconductors
  • Photovoltaics and Organic Photovoltaics
  • High-Brightness LED and OLED Lighting
  • Flat Panel Display
  • Micro-Electromechanical Systems
  • Printed and Flexible Electronics
  • Related Micro- and Nano-Electronics

An Enabling Technology for Myriad Applications

Air Turns enable disruptive solutions for many different functional applications, such as:

Application 1 – Web Handling

With New Way Air Turns, a flexible web can be carried or turned on a thin (80-100µm) film of air, creating stiff and repeatable support. Tight, non-contact control allows for web conveyance at speeds of up to 100 meters-per-second.

Further, the system is significantly simplified, with no rotating components, and bending
angles of up to 180 degrees are possible. Web stress, warp, and weft are minimized because, with non-contact support, imperfect synchronization is no longer a factor and the web is allowed to find its own path over the air film.

Application 2 – Concurrent Tactical Coating

A significant advantage of the air turn is that tactical coating operations can be carried out concurrently on both sides of a substrate. This includes deposition applications, photographic lithography, as well as chemical and electromechanical methodologies.

Whether your process calls for altering substrate surface properties, or the addition of new functionalities, non-contact handling can make your operation twice as efficient.

Application 3 – Web Tension Control

With the Air Turn, New Way’s pioneering use of viscous shear for web tension control allows for the replacement of tension bars or even more costly, complex tensioning systems.

Simple, automated adjustments to the air pressure keep the tension constant. Further, the precision, non-contact control of air turns throughout the web can reduce the need for tension adjustment in the first place by addressing issues caused by mechanical misalignments and inertial differences throughout the system, especially at start-up.

Application 4 – De-Wrinkling

There’s an entire cottage industry out there focused on the removal of wrinkles from substrates as they wind their way throughout a web. With New Way Air Turns, wrinkles present in the substrate are flattened automatically by the air pressure above the cylindrical bearing surface.

Application 5 – Inspection and Analysis

Air turns deliver an exceptionally repeatable substrate fly height, down to the sub-micron level. This enables a consistent focal point for critical inline optical inspection and analysis.

Replacing Conventional Web Components

Air turns in the converting industry are designed to replace conventional rollers, turn bars, or tension bars, providing a non-contact solution for any of the applications above, and more.

New Way manufactures these enabling products in form factors fit for components already found in the field. Sizing is simple, as air turns can accommodate turning radii from 12mm to 3m in diameter. In addition to the company’s standard product line, New Way also designs,
engineers, and manufactures custom components to your requirements.

A New ‘Roll’ for Non-Contact Air Turns in the Converting Industry

If you’re ready to find out more about this transformative technology, we encourage you to download New Way’s latest Q&A: ‘‘Improving R2R Processing with Air Turns.This 10-minute read, featuring air turn expert Dirk Smits of IBS Precision Engineering, is everything you need to get started on a roll of your own.

Or, if you’re ready for your own non-contact conversion today, contact us right away for your complimentary consultation!

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