Product Briefing Outline: ABB’s new IRB6640 cleanroom robot is designed to help the thin-film photovoltaic sector to improve productivity by lowering manufacturing costs, while at the same time raising production output. The new cleanroom version of the IRB6640 meets all necessary process and cleanroom specifications for the thin-film photovoltaic industry, according to ABB.

Problem: Thin-film manufacturing consists of applying semiconductors and electrical interconnecting layers to a glass substrate carrier. Any contamination, even in the micron range, reduces the power rating of the modules. The degree of cleanliness required, plus the size and weight of the modules, precludes using traditional manual production methods. It is therefore impossible to construct the modules in an economic way without using “clean” robots.

Solution: ABB cleanroom robots have three paint layers: a prime coat, a white paint layer and a clear top coat. Screws and inspection panels are covered with plastic prior to painting, which is subsequently removed when the paint dries. Some screws and panels are then protected again using removable covers, which facilitates cleaning. Inspection panels are not painted. Some of the cables are installed in an enclosed cable carrier, which enables them to be properly transported and at the same time prevents worn areas - even those that are not visible - from being exposed. Any areas that could potentially cause contamination are sealed at the factory using metal plates. The cleanroom robots are cleaned before they are shipped to customers and are protected by a double layer of plastic. The first layer is removed just outside the cleanroom to prevent any contaminants from entering. The second layer of plastic is removed inside the cleanroom to ensure compliance with strict cleanliness specifications.

Applications: Thin-film photovoltaic module manufacturing in Class 5 cleanrooms.

Platform: Certification was undertaken by The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA in Stuttgart. They rigorously tested the six-axis articulated robot over a period of seven weeks and included evaluation and compilation of all relevant documents. The primary objective was to evaluate the IRB 6640's clean-room suitability and surface cleanliness attributes. The evaluation was done in accordance with relevant specifications from VDI (Vercin Deutscher Ingenieure).

Availability: June 2008 onwards.