Coatema and HELIOSONIC Announce Partnership

At LOPEC 2024, Coatema presented itself together with partner HELIOSONIC in a joint booth. The launch of fuelcell2print, their high precision digital membrane coating system integrated into a web handling infrastructure, was one of the highlights of the tradeshow in Munich.

Key highlights include a seamless integration of the HELIOSONIC print head with Coatema’s cutting-edge web handling systems, digital fabrication for renewable energy tech, and a significant leap in printing capabilities, combining speed with unparalleled precision.

"The fusion of Coatema’s legacy with HELIOSONIC’s innovations isn’t just a partnership", both partners state. "It’s a call to the future of industrial printing. We invite stakeholders, partners and customers to join us in embracing this new era where potential meets realisation."

HELIOSONIC, part of Altana AG and based in Wesel, uses and develops a laser-based digital printing technology (LIFT) suitable for material deposition with a large range of inks for several different applications. With this technology, inks that can so far not be printed digitally can be used, such as high-viscosity inks or inks containing large particles.

A carrier belt is coated with a layer of the ink. A laser beam is focused on the ink from the opposite side of the belt. The laser creates a bubble, and, as a result, an inkjet is produced. While the carrier belt is moving to continuously supply fresh ink to the printing area, the laser beam is scanning over the belt. Before reaching the scanner unit, the laser beam passes through an acousto-optical modulator. The acousto-optical modulator can switch the laser on and off, thus creating the digital image.

The acousto-optical modulator is digitally controlled, and synchronized with the scanner movement. The patterns for material deposition are given by image files in Tiff-format, which can be designed with any image processing software.
The jetting mechanism requires the ink to absorb the laser light (typically approx. 1070nm). For inks
that do not absorb at this wavelength, absorbers can be added to the ink.

According to HELIOSONIC, this offers the following advantages:

Fully digital technology: The material deposition is entirely controlled by the print file and the print parameters (such as laser power, for instance). Unlike screen printers, the HELIOSONIC technology does not use a print form. This allows for freeform deposition with arbitrary shapes, that can be changed at any time.

Contactless printing: The print head does not touch the target. Depending on the ink, typical print distances are 200µm to 1mm. Therefore, wet-on-wet deposition is possible. This can be used to increase the thickness of the deposited layer by running multiple prints consecutively on the same target. Also, no pressure is applied to the target.

Nozzleless printing: In principle, the HELIOSONIC technology can be thought of as an inkjet process without nozzles. Thus, some of the major restrictions of conventional inkjet printers are eliminated. Since no nozzles can be clogged or damaged, high-viscosity inks and inks containing large particles can be used.

Coatema Coating Machinery GmbH, located in Dormagen, designs and produces Sheet-to-Sheet and Roll-to-Roll equipment for the coating, printing and laminating sectors. For more than 40 years Coatema has designed and built laboratory equipment and pilot/production plants for traditional markets such as the textile sector and the materials converting market. The laboratory and pilot machinery product lines were expanded more than 20 years ago making Coatema a market leader in emerging technologies such as advanced batteries, solar, prepregs, medical and pharmaceuticals, fuel cells and printed electronics.

Caption: Joint appearance by Coatema and HELIOSONIC at LOPEC 2024: The new cooperation project was presented by Volker Jordan (HELIOSONIC), Tomi Belosevic and Thomas Kolbusch (both Coatema, from left). Photo: Bettina Maurer

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