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Baldor Assists Australian Company to Develop Low-Cost Solar Cell Technology

Dyesol is a world leader in the development of Dye Solar Cell (DSC) technology, which produces electricity in a process that utilizes the principles of nanotechnology and photosynthesis. DSC technology is particularly efficient in real-life conditions, such as low or dappled light, and uses low-cost, environmentally sustainable materials together with low-cost, low-energy manufacturing techniques. Today, the Dyesol group is focused on the industrialization and commercialization of DSC technology throughout the world, assisting solar cell manufacturers to develop their own products, improve cell performance and develop low-cost mass production systems.

“There are a number of processes in the production of a DSC, and it is in one of these processes that Baldor motion control technology has proven so beneficial,” said Anthony Oh, senior design engineer at Dyesol’s headquarters in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Australia.

“We have used Baldor equipment in previous designs and have found it to be very successful. Baldor offers us a good development platform, a neat package with proven compatibility between components, robust design and worldwide availability and support. Our clients are located all around the world, and they are not machine builders, so we must deliver a ready-to-go, user-friendly package with the necessary access to support in their region should it be needed.”

The DSCs are manufactured by preparing glass outer skins with a printed circuit on one side, followed by a layer of porous titanium dioxide and application of the dye to the entire surface. The Dyesol Dye Profiling Machine, equipped with Baldor motion control systems, is used to accurately remove sections of the applied medium from the glass panel. This results in multiple individual cells on the glass panel, joined by the printed circuit. The cell is completed by vacuum backfilling with the electrolyte (iodide) and finally sealing with thermo-plastic, resulting in a DSC capable of producing an electrical current.

The latest dye profiling machine incorporates a Baldor NextMove e100 multi-axis controller along with a Baldor HMI touch-screen control panel, operational software developed by Dyesol, based on the inbuilt Baldor Mint® software, 2 x 3 amp Baldor MicroFlex servo drives and two Baldor BSM brushless servo motors. “The NextMove e100 is very powerful and capable of controlling up to 16 interpolated axes, yet is still cost effective for our 2 axis application. We also like the MicroFlex e100 Ethernetbased servo drives because now we can connect all of the limit and home position switches back to the MicroFlex servo drives,” explains Oh.

After calculating the machine’s requirements, Baldor engineers assisted Dyesol engineers in the selection of motors. A very compact R-series motor was chosen for the X-axis. Baldor Systems Engineer Jason DeSouza says with a body size of just 40mm diameter and 59mm length, the Baldor motor is an elegant solution. “These motors provide a high torque to inertia ratio and high acceleration capabilities in an ultra-compact body format,” explains DeSouza. “For the Y-axis, a more powerful motor was required because it’s mounted under the table and incorporates a cogged belt drive to the spindle. The unit came from our range of C-series motors, which use our ‘Ring Magnet’ rotor design and Neodymium magnet material to deliver premium torque output at a lower cost. Both motors have 2500 pulse/rev integrated encoder feedback for high-precision positioning.”

The Dyesol team programmed the machine and chose to make it a self-contained, stand-alone unit. They downloaded the operating routines to the NextMove e100 controller, although it is capable of interfacing to an external PC if that suits the application. They also developed an interface with a Baldor 12-inch color touch-screen HMI panel mounted on the machine.

“The fact that Baldor supplies the necessary software to enable us to develop our programs and our own interface free of charge is another reason we chose them as our preferred supplier,” states Oh. “Often, licensing fees can add considerably to the initial costs, and ongoing upgrades can also add to the cost of ownership.”

Baldor’s Mint Motion Language is a high-speed compiled BASIC programming language for motion and machine control that combines multitasking capability for motion, I/O, HMI and communication tasks, allowing complex applications to be divided into simpler, more manageable sub-tasks.

Mint WorkBench is a Windows® tool that is common across Baldor’s range of NextMove motion controllers, servo drives and high-performance inverter and vector drives. It offers an easy-to-use development front end for Mint programming, with its color highlighting of keywords and context-sensitive help. The program navigator makes it a breeze to navigate the source code, no matter how complicated.

“The interface we developed is simple yet complete,” explains Oh. “It allows the machine to be operated by relatively unskilled personnel after just a small amount of training. All of the necessary adjustments to allow for different shapes and sizes of DSCs are easily made and selected on the HMI screen, and operation is fully automatic and self-managed after the start command.”

The managing director of Baldor Australia, Daniel Vera, believes Dyesol DSC technology is making a real difference in the development of sustainable and renewable energy and is pleased to be involved with an Australian company producing such cutting-edge technology.

“We appreciate how important R&D is in the field of energy production and usage, and as pressure mounts on the world’s resources over the coming years, technology from companies like Baldor and Dyesol will continue to enhance the world’s efforts in reducing fossil fuel dependence.”