"Smart Inspection Equipment with Real-time Feedback for Solar Panel Production Line" Result Presentation

Traditionally, inspection of a large thin-film solar panel with the size of 122 cm x 62 cm can only be done by manually sampling, and takes about 30 minutes. Being Taiwan's leading brand of customized opto-electric instruments, Taiwan Instrument Research Institute (TIRI) of National Applied Research Laboratories (NARLabs), teams up with Taiwan's leading machinery manufacturer, HIWIN Technologies Co, and Eterbright Solar Co. specialized in research, development and manufacturing of CIGS (copper indium gallium selenide) thin film solar cell, applying opto-electro-mechanical integration technology to customize the development and construction of the first online full inspection equipment: "Smart Inspection Equipment with Real-time Feedback for Solar Panel Production Line". And a piece of solar panel can be inspected completely within 1 minute. This equipment can not only improve the inspection efficiency by more than 30 times, but also analyzes the inspection results in real time, and adjust the manufacturing process accordingly.  The inspection efficiency and quality are significantly improved.

Taiwan No. 1 allies Taiwan No. 1,  Cross field integration to create new opportunity

In order to balance energy security, green economy, and environmental sustainability, developing photovoltaics and cultivating local green energy industry are key energy policies in the government's "5+2 Industrial Innovation Plan". Crystalline silicon and thin film are two most common process technologies for solar cell. Crystalline silicon solar cells have currently dominated the photovoltaic market because of advanced technology and relatively low cost per watt. Another up and coming type of solar cell is the thin film solar cell. Thin film solar cells are produced by coating techniques. The nature of the manufacturing technique can save energy and large amount of raw materials. In addition, thin film solar cells can be manufactured on flexible substrates, suitable for Building-integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV). Thin film solar cells can also be used as a power supply source for portable devices, which is one of the main development trends for the solar cell industry. Among thin-film solar cells, CIGS has high photoelectric conversion efficiency and cost advantages, and is very potentially promising. The estimated annual output value of thin-film solar cells is 30 billion US dollars.

Taiwan's research on CIGS thin film solar cells started relatively later than abroad, and all production and testing equipment market for CIGS thin film has long been monopolized by European, American and Japanese companies. In order to break through the technology bottleneck, TIRI/NARLabs teams up with HIWIN Group to integrate the core technologies of "optical inspection" and "smart machinery" to customize the development of "Smart Inspection Equipment with Real-time Feedback for Solar Panel Production Line", which can quickly, accurately and comprehensively inspect the quality of solar panels on the production line and improve the quality of manufacturing process. This innovative result can benefit Taiwan to develop local manufacturing equipment research capability and create development advantage that is difficult for competitors to surpass.

First Taiwan inline inspection equipment for solar panel production, inspection efficiency improved by more than 30 times

There are three scribing processes during CIGS thin-film solar panel manufacturing, including laser scribing and mechanical scribing. During the scribing processes, defects occur such as line width and space variations, distorted scribing line and over or under scribing. The conventional offline sampling inspection requires manual inspection, analysis and judgment. It takes about 30 minutes to finish one panel inspection and cannot meet the needs of high-volume production today.

In order to establish a full set of online inspection equipment for production line, TIRI customized "linear arrayed optical device", "high throughput computing and storage device" and "measurement and inspection processor" to integrate with HIWIN's "precise positioning platform" and "loading and unloading robot" developed with transmission and control profession, and built the first inline full inspection "Smart Inspection Equipment with Real-time Feedback for Solar Panel Production Line". This equipment, featuring with arrayed optical device, high throughput computing and storage device, precise positioning platform and loading and unloading robot, can perform quick scan, image acquisition and data storage for large thin-film solar panels with the size of 122 cm x 62 cm, and complete the panel inspection and quality identification within 60 seconds with the measurement and inspection processor. The inspection efficiency is improved by more than 30 times and totally meet the performance requirements of inline real-time inspection.

In addition to improving the inspection efficiency, the change from manual sampling to automatic full inspection can substantially increase the number of inspected panels and shorten the inspection time. The inspection results can automatically be connected to the computer database to determine the possible problems in the process in real time, and then conduct adjustment to improve production efficiency and manufacturing quality. This inspection equipment has been successfully integrated into the CIGS thin-film solar panel manufacturing line of Eterbright Solar Corp., and the stability and accuracy of the equipment have been verified by the production line. This equipment is also designed with Artificial Intelligence of Things (AIoT) system structure which can build smart factory production lines, detect and feedback in different stages of the process to optimize the process and equipment, improve solar panel power generation efficiency and manufacturing quality.

President of NARLabs, Dr. Wang, Yeong-Her addresses that this inspection equipment has passed the rigorous verification by HIWIN Group for one year.  He expects this innovative result will drive the local development for the green energy industry and add value to Taiwan green energy industry equipment supply chain and push Taiwan transform into an important base for Asian green energy industry. Director of TIRI, Dr. Yang, Yao-Joe also comments that TIRI has accumulated optoelectronics integration capability for many years, and is capable of customizing instrument solutions for customer's specific application. Through diverse cooperation models of strategic alliance and technical support, TIRI assists partners to tailor testing equipment development, master key independent technologies and reduce equipment costs. The technology and capability established by developing "Smart Inspection Equipment with Real-time Feedback for Solar Panel Production Line", can also be applied to similar production lines or product inspections in the future, such as glass substrates, flat panel displays, Thin Film Transistor Liquid Crystal Display (TFT-LCD), printed circuit boards, semiconductor wafers, and even textile leather. This outstanding technology and capability can help to boost the competitiveness of Taiwan electronics industry and even traditional industries in global markets.