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Robotic Material Handling of Flexible Fuel Cell Membranes

[+] Author Affiliations
Stephen J. Derby, John Lippiatt

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY

Paper No. DETC2005-84174, pp. 555-563; 9 pages
  • ASME 2005 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 7: 29th Mechanisms and Robotics Conference, Parts A and B
  • Long Beach, California, USA, September 24–28, 2005
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division and Computers and Information in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 0-7918-4744-6 | eISBN: 0-7918-3766-1
  • Copyright © 2005 by ASME


One of the biggest challenges in the manufacturing of high temperature fuel cells is the creation of the Membrane Exchange Assembly (MEA). This is the heart of the fuel cell, where the 4–5 components must be assembled with very high tolerances to perform successfully. One of the key components, the membrane, is similar to plastic food wrap. Handling plastic wrap alone in a wrinkle free mode, with precision cut edges is difficult enough. But it also must be saturated in acid, creating a very slippery product. And the membrane will grow or shrink in a matter of 5 minutes when exposed to moisture in the air. So this material handling effort is orders of magnitude more difficult than the established methods for “simple” items like paper. This paper will document the research conducted into the robotic material handling of the fuel cell membranes. It requires a mix of traditional robotic techniques, some techniques from the fabric handling arena, and some new approaches. The issues from lifting a wet film from a PET backer sheet consistently and the sensing requirements for accurate placement have made this a challenging effort.

Copyright © 2005 by ASME



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