Robots put lenses on solar cells

MARCH 10, 2009--When solar industry startup Energy Innovations built its first products in China a few years ago, the company ran into a snag that it solved with a robot.

MARCH 10, 2009--When solar industry startup Energy Innovations (Pasadena, CA, USA; www.energyinnovations.com) built its first products in China a few years ago, the company ran into a snag that it solved with a robot. Energy Innovations' Sunflower concentrating photovoltaic system relies on proprietary fresnel lenses to focus sunlight onto small, triple-junction, silicon solar cells to efficiently produce electricity. Precise alignment between the lenses and the photovoltaic cells is key.

"For production, we were relying on manual alignment techniques, and the yield was not very good," says Bud Sherman, vice president of operations at the firm. "We could build product," Sherman relates, "but you wouldn't call it commercially successful." As Energy Innovations managers looked into the yield problem, they began to realize that the alignment task—with tolerances in the neighborhood of 0.005-0.01 inch—was not something that could be done with sufficient consistency by human operators.

Research by the firm on manufacturing methods used for other precision optical products, such as cameras and projection TVs, suggested the use of robots instead. So Energy Innovations set out to automate the Sunflower production process. For more information, go to: http://www.automationworld.com/feature-5148

-- Posted by Conard Holton, Vision Systems Design, www.vision-systems.com

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