InfraTec research participation "Feuerdrache" - contact firing furnace

Process Development and Control of Contact Firing Processes for High-efficiency Silicon Solar Cells

The Research Project “FEUERDRACHE”

The target of the research project under the management of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE Freiburg, was the optimisation of the production process for high-efficiency PERC silicon solar cells. For this purpose, an innovative contact firing process together with the associated in-situ process control was to be achieved. In the sub-project of InfraTec, a technology for contactless measurement and monitoring of the wafer temperature in the contacting process was developed to achieve this purpose as an alternative to the previous temperature measurement with thermocouples.

In the project, different thermographic systems were integrated in the contact firing furnace. These were adapted and successfully tested by the use of conventional and innovative beam sources (IR emitters and VCSEL diodes) according to the specific requirements in terms of wavelengths, power densities, high ambient temperature as well as to the different spatial scenarios. The infrared camera ImageIR® 8300 delivered excellent results in the specific application.

Instead of the punctual measurement of the process temperature in the furnace and extensive individual measurements on specially prepared cells, the results of the research project showed that the complete recording of the temperature distribution of the entire wafer surface is possible. Hereby, the process temperature in the "peak zone" can be optimally controlled, the throughput speed increased, and the production costs were reduced as well as simultaneously higher cell efficiency can be achieved.

The research project „Feuerdrache“ was supervised during the period from 01.07.2017 until 30.06.2020 by the project sponsor Jülich (PTJ) under the promotional code 0324205B. The financing of the project was supported on the basis of a resolution of the German Parliament by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy.

Data Fusion in Plant Phenotyping for Cercospora Detection in Sugarbeets

A Successful Cooperation against Plant Diseases

Data Fusion in Plant Phenotyping for Cercospora Detection in Sugarbeets

Various sensor technologies had been evaluated regarding their usability for the detection of the plant disease Cercospora in the joint project „Data Fusion in Plant Phenotyping for Cercospora Detection in Sugarbeets“ (DataPlant), funded by the German Ministry of Food and Agriculture. The sensor data acquired by georeferenced LIFT and hyperspectral systems, drone based RGB cameras and weather stations were processed and combined – among themselves as well as with traditional scoring methods - using sophisticated Big Data algorithms. Besides the already established RGB images, the determination of vegetation index values by hyperspectral measurements seems to be a promising sensor-based detection method.

The project partners Clausthal University of Technology, KWS SAAT SE & Co. KGaA, MG Optical Solutions GmbH and InfraTec GmbH Infrarotsensorik und Messtechnik developed an innovative sensor system, which shall detect a Cercospora infection by laser induced IR spectroscopy. The plant leaves are irradiated by a quantum cascade laser at wavelengths of typical absorption bands of Cercospora related molecules whereon the resulting surface temperature changes are detected by a radiometrically calibrated thermal camera VarioCAM® HD head by InfraTec.

So, the project „DataPlant“ demonstrated various sensor technologies which are potentially suited for an automated detection of plant diseases and could provide data for digital system solutions in plant production and breeding in future.

InfraTec research project Ceremony

Quality Inspection and Production Monitoring of Ceramic Precision Components

The Ceremony Research Project

Using regenerative energy forms comprehensively at all times, both industrially and privately – this idea currently fails because, among other reasons, the right technologies for mass energy storage are not available on the market. High-temperature batteries based on sodium nickel chloride are among the solutions to which researchers worldwide ascribe the potential to provide a remedy in future. Tubes made of beta-alumina serve as electrolyte membranes in these special batteries. But their production is technologically far from maturity. For example, efficiency currently suffers because the quality inspection takes place laboriously by hand.

An automatable, non-destructive inspection based on infrared thermography could reduce the risks of subjective influences on the inspection results drastically and increase reliability during production. In the Ceremony project, InfraTec, together with four other German partners and with financial support from the European Regional Development Fund of the European Union, is searching for suitable ways to inspect such ceramic precision components efficiently and in a way suitable for serial production.

Operation temperatures inside the cell of a sodium-nickel-chloride battery are typically around 300 °C. While their housing consists of several walls and is vacuum-insulated – still, even the smallest errors in the beta-aluminate cups can cause great damage. With active thermography, even very thin cracks and delamination can be detected in many cases. Use of the high-end infrared camera series ImageIR® from InfraTec fulfils important requirements for development of an inspection system with ultrasound excitation. If its suitability for this application is proven, its area of application should be expanded in future to include inspection of additional ceramic parts in machine building, medical technology, electronics and analysis technology, for example.

InfraTec research projects crack detection - picture credits: © iStock.com / kimtaro

Crack Detection in Steel Production

The AMPLAST Research Project

The project AMPLAST focused on innovative process monitoring with the goal of implementing quantitative, fast and non-destructive laser thermography for in-line production monitoring in steel production. Four cooperation partners from Germany and India participated in the project. InfraTec worked mainly on detecting surface and near surface cracks.

The ImageIR® 8300 hp infrared camera was used to solve these inspection problems. One of the tasks was to implement the computationally intensive data-processing processes necessary to use a infrared camera on a FPGA inside the camera. That reduces the processor workload of the computer equipment connected to the infrarec camera considerably and represents a noticeable gain for inline crack detection in industrial steel production. Additionally, InfraTec created a software program that combines online image recording from the infrared camera with algorithms for crack detection.

InfraTec research projects gewol

Inspection of CFRP Compounds and Components

The GEWOL Research Project

Fibre-reinforced plastics, such as CFRP and GRP, offer numerous advantages for lightweight design of aircraft and automobiles. But the economic, flexible and automated production of these materials in large volumes has been delayed by the lack of suitable processing, inspection and measurement procedures. Laser technology promises help here. InfraTec worked together with Audi and six additional partners from science and industry to optimise the possibilities to use local laser energy application, customised for the respective production requirements, for processing temperature-sensitive materials.

In the GEWOL project, InfraTec participated concretely on further development of laser-excited thermography. This can be used to inspect the adhesive joints of CFRP and GRP components. The same applies for compounds of plastic materials with steel or aluminium. Until now, this has typically been done using ultrasonic procedures or classical flash thermography.

Laser-excited thermography proved to be a very effective method of component inspection. The excitation intensity was distributed far more homogeneously. At the same time, excitation could be applied onto a larger surface, which saved valuable time in every inspection procedure. In addition to area excitation, this procedure easily permitted linear excitation, which provided additional advantages when working with varying geometries of inspection objects. Due to its detector format of (1,920 × 1,536) IR pixels, the infrared camera developed in the project, ImageIR® 10300, is able to capture the smallest geometrical details.

InfraTec research projects laser sintering - Picture credits: © iStock.com / 499362751 dreamnikon

More Efficiency in Laser Sintering with Plastics

The HiPer-LS Research Project

Increasing the productivity and reproducibility of laser sintering with plastics through new technological solutions – this was the goal of the HiPer-LS project, in which a total of eight partners from Germany worked together.

Laser sintering is a tool-free technology, which enables to produce three-dimensional workpieces in very complex shapes. Thermal process guidance with a high-resolution infrared camera plays a large role in further increasing efficiency and lowering costs while achieving the same or higher quality.

A VarioCAM® HD head 900 from InfraTec was used to monitor the production process. The thermographic measurements it made formed the basis for optimising the temperatures of the melted mass and the powder bed as well as the energy application by the laser. The goal was to achieve a melting temperature that was as homogeneous as possible and stable for a long time. When this is successfully achieved, the result is a correspondingly homogeneous melt film. The components made with this procedure are denser, have fewer pores and show more homogeneous shrinkage.

InfraTec research projects Logo LaserLeichter

Thermographic Process and Quality Monitoring for Dissimilar Lightweight Designs

The LaserLeichter Research Project

Modern automobility and lightweight construction are inseparable today. In addition to energy savings, vehicles must continue to achieve a high degree of safety, so lightweight materials are combined with high-strength materials. This requires the development of new production and inspection procedures. The LaserLeichter project combined more than ten partners from science and industry from throughout Germany, who devoted themselves to this goal.

The focus of interest included composites of metal and fibre-reinforced material. Thermographic process monitoring can reveal weak points when these composites are joined. In addition, missing bonds in the joint location can be detected through non-destructive inspection of the composites using the ImageIR® series infrared camera from InfraTec, which was used in the project.

Automated Crack Detection on Forging Parts

The ThermoBot2 Research Project

Manufacturers and processors of forgings have inspected workpieces for undesired cracks using magnetic particle inspection for decades. This inspection method only provides subjective results, is time consuming, hard to automate and ecologically problematic due to the chemicals used. The robot-based, laser-induced active thermography offers an attractive alternative. As part of the ThermoBot2 project of the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG), InfraTec worked together with four Austrian partners to further develop this modern alternative solution for industrial production. The idea is to heat forgings locally with a laser and observe the heat propagation with the ImageIR® 8300 infrared camera. Resulting temperature differences are shown on the high-resolution thermograms, from which possible cracks can be detected and localised through complex evaluation procedures.

InfraTec research projects Spirit

The ImageIR® 8300 hp in Use for Research Applications

The SPIRIT Research Project

InfraTec expands its know-how in the field of thermography by participating in various research projects. The ImageIR® 8300 hp is used, for example, in the SPIRIT project. A total of eight partners from Austria, Italy and Germany are working together to simplify the use of inspection robots for quality control of complex shaped parts. Up to now, robots for solving such tasks have been programmed specifically for each application. This is usually very time-consuming and causes high costs. In future, in contrast, a simple set-up will be sufficient for the robot-supported testing task.

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