FlexTech Alliance, 4D Technology developing R2R surface metrology system

December 28, 2012 – The FlexTech Alliance has awarded 4D Technology (Tucson, AZ) a contract to develop an optical system that addresses a shortcoming in roll-to-roll (R2R) electronics manufacturing: in situ, high-resolution mapping of surface topography and defects on a moving, flexible web. The $956K development project, expected to be completed in early 2014, will enable new, real-time levels of process control and yield enhancement, according to the groups.

Surface metrology and defect detection of web materials in R2R are well-known needs for flexible electronics manufacturing. This project’s primary focus is on analyzing and measuring transparent substrates, but the partners claim it will be applicable to translucent and reflective materials. Suppliers and customers of web materials will be able to agree upon and implement practical specifications and quality metrics to ensure consistent materials (incoming and outgoing) at the lowest possible cost.

Surface roughness, defect density, and cleanliness, key parameters for R2R substrates, are difficult to measure with high-resolution on moving substrates, noted Malcolm J. Thompson, chief technical advisor to the FlexTech Alliance. “This project with 4D Technology was initiated in order to upgrade the equipment industry’s capability to provide a metrology tool that can be integrated into a manufacturing line.”

“The new metrology system, as an on-line instrument, will register, identify and classify defects for pre-processing and post-processing of transparent flexible web materials. This will help overcome current manufacturing obstacles by replacing qualitative specs and visual inspection methods with quantitative specs supported by data acquisition and analysis,” added James Millerd, PhD, president of 4D Technology.

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