Flexible materials are considered to be one of five manufacturing innovations that will change the world. Once considered a futuristic concept, the proven demonstration of flexible hybrid electronics (FHE) has led to their demand across a wide range of industries:
- Consumer Electronics
FHE ideas are limitless, but the means to produce them aren’t. Determining how to mass-produce them cost-effectively requires rethinking manufacturing, spawning the formation of NextFlex, a group leading the charge to commercialize FHE technology. Taking FHE to the next level requires rethinking the basics, including the type of bearing.
Air turns by New Way® provide a bearing solution for the FHE, web handling and roll-to-roll applications. Founded on the success of New Way’s Porous Media Technology™, air turns offer five unique benefits to this rapidly growing industry.
Five Benefits of Air Turns for Web Handling
Air bearings are famous for the improvements made to the precision manufacturing industry. Burdened by friction, rolling element bearing systems were unable to deliver the necessary accuracy. Air bearings ushered in a new era of improved precision by removing friction.
Products such as New Way flat round air bearings utilized the benefits of porous media to deliver a stiff cushion of air to remove friction. This innovative design transformed the Coordinate Measuring Machine (CMM) and the precision industry. The even distribution of air inherent to New Way’s Porous Media Technology creates distinctive benefits:
- Zero backlash
- Near-zero friction and stiction
- Minimal thermal impacts
- Robust, crash-resistant design
New Way Air Turns similarly apply Porous Media Technology™. By wrapping porous media around the bearing, a flexible substrate can be ‘turned’ or moved through production, without any movement by the bearing itself. This method of delivering non-contact support enables air turns to provide several unique benefits to the roll-to-roll industry.
- Reduced Damage & Contamination
With contact removed, so are concerns of damage and contamination. The use of porous media allows for the air to be evenly distributed, reducing concerns of sags/wrinkles. Other air bearing designs often develop pressure gradients resulting in uneven support of the material causing a greater likelihood of damage or contamination.
- No Static Charge
Studies have shown air turns do not add charge to films like PET during web handling and printing operations. This is in contrast to systems using traditional rollers where contact creates a static build-up, affecting printing/coating quality. Additional, costly equipment is often needed. Air turns remove this challenge.
- Clean Room Operations
New Way products have been shown to meet Class 3 cleanroom standards with particulates of less than 1,000 x 0.1μm particles/m3. Additionally, the carbon serves as a sub-micron filter, eliminating contaminates in operations, also providing justification for use in cleanrooms as stringent as Class 1.
- Standard, Versatile Product Line
New Way Air Turns are now available in several standard sizes, with the ability to select from one of three standard wrap angles. While custom solutions are still available, the establishment of a standard product line reduces cost and lead time for our customers. Traditional roll to roll web handling systems often require the use of a combination of idler rollers, tension bars, spreader bars, and turn bars. Air turns can be used in place of these components. With standard options available, the versatility of air turns greatly simplifies operations and maintenance.
- Web Steering Control
Air turns can be used in place of traditional steering units, removing contact from the front side of the web. Studies have shown web stability of ± 0.2mm with air turns retrofitted for steering units. The non-contact nature of air turns allows for a faster steering response time.
The combination of these unique benefits makes air turns a powerful component for its use in web handling applications.
Three Examples of Air Turns in Web Handling Applications
With these benefits, air turns are poised to transform the roll to roll industry for handling (semi-)flexible substrates. Here are three examples of how air turns can take flexible roll-to-roll processing to the next level.
- Concurrent Tactical Coating Applications
Air turns are the perfect fit to concurrently apply coatings to flexible materials. From chemical to electromechanical applications and beyond, air turns enable efficiency in applying coatings without the headaches of contamination. The even, yet stiff, distribution of air ensures no sags or wrinkles which could affect end-product quality.
- Inkjet Printing
Since air turns make no contact with the substrate, no static build-up occurs. This not only eliminates the need for static discharge bars. Since many of the new inks/coatings are highly sensitive to contact, air turns also improve the end product print/coating quality.
- Flexible Display Production
Air turns are a natural extension of New Way Air Bars, one of our most popular products used to produce and convey flat panel displays. As glass becomes thinner and more flexible, the porous media wrapped on the air turn provides a non-contact solution to convey a flexible web at high speeds. Air turns and air bars with vacuum pressure features can also be integrated to provide increased stability to the web during transport.
Turning the Page on Web Handling
By applying Porous Media Technology to air turns, New Way can deliver the same benefits our customers know and love about our air bearings. With a standard product line available, air turns are a readily available technology for the demands of the unique requirements in web handling for flexible materials.