R&D & consultancy
We started life as a consultancy company, helping customers with advice on polymer foil extrusion and photovoltaic module lamination. Because many of the tests are highly specialised, we could help customers with informed analysis, so we decided to create IP FAB and invest in our own lab infrastructure in Belgium. The lab is well equipped to develop foil and formulation prototypes, but analysis for trouble root cause investigation is possible too.
The R&D lab is equipped with the necessary tools for idea prototyping, from polymer granulate to laminate. Formulation is done with our own twin-screw extrusion equipment, where additive masterbatches and polymer compounds can be made on a scale from 1 kg right up to industrial amounts. From these formulations, small films can be made by compression moulding or even lab-scale film extrusion. Mini modules of 1, 4 or even a string of 20 cells can be laminated and further characterised.
Besides polymer film lamination, we also offer further characterisation. Soxhlet extraction can be performed for cross-linking studies. Mechanical testing is used for adhesion studies and determining mechanical properties. The lab is also well equipped for optical characterisation, where parameters such as haze, transmission, colour and UV/VIS spectrum can be accurately determined.
These characterisation techniques can be used for new product prototyping, but are also commonly employed in quality-control activity for foil manufacturers and module production companies. The latter often send samples for gel content determination to monitor the performance of the laminator.
Consultancy and root cause analysis
Consultancy services on polymer extrusion and lamination are offered to customers. Typical customers are companies that produce PV polymer foils, such as encapsulant or back-sheet manufacturers. Furthermore, module lamination customers often consult IP FAB to optimise lamination processes or help with raw-material sourcing and lamination process development. Consultancy can be on a day-by-day basis, but longer term consultancy contracts can also be discussed.
Unfortunately, things do not always go as expected and defects can appear. In some cases the root cause is obvious, but sometimes a more detailed investigation is needed to get to the bottom of the problem. The IP FAB lab has already demonstrated that it is a very valuable asset in root cause investigation. We are equipped to prepare cross sections of materials and study them by microscopy. Also, mechanical determination can be performed to gain a better understanding of adhesion failure. Sometimes chemical analysis of contaminants by FTIR can result in a solution.
We know that when an issue appears, time is usually not on your side and you naturally want a quick solution. As a private organisation we understand the time pressure and aim to help our customers as efficiently and adequately as possible.