Systems and processes for continuous production

Fast and efficient: functionalizing plastic and metal foils in a continuous process

Applying electrodes to metal films or structuring of plastic films. These two processes have one thing in common: They run continuously via rollers. The so-called roll-to-roll technologies (R2R) are a particularly cost-effective way of producing film materials at high process speeds. In various process areas, the film substrates can be functionalized using structuring processes. In order to test new technologies or manufacturing approaches in continuous production, Fraunhofer IPT is developing modular R2R small- to midscale production lines for plastic and metal films. This enables companies to react quickly and adequately to changes in production, as the modules can be flexibly designed and the system concept can be adapted to different conditions – even after commissioning.

Metal films are used in the production of components for energy storage systems, for example in the manufacture of electrodes for lithium-ion or solid-state batteries or in hydrogen technology as the base material for bipolar plates in fuel cells or electrolyzers. Plastic films are often used for optical, microfluidic or electrochemical applications, for example for the membrane electrode assembly (MEA).

The production of these components offers great potential for applied research into continuous processes. Innovations in R2R technology, therefore, establish important foundations for marketable products.

A wide range of production options using the R2R process

R2R processes

Very different machining processes can be integrated into the R2R system technology:
  • Laser processing
  • Printing
  • Embossing
  • Compacting
  • Drying
  • Continuous pick and place
  • Coating
  • Machining
  • Measurement technology

Functionalized polymer films for various applications

  • Optical systems
  • Microfluidic systems
  • Cell growth



The slot-die coating application can be used to coat plastic or metal foils with different layers of material, for example, to apply a graphitic ink to metal foil. The coated foil can then be used as an anode in a battery.

Layers for various components and products

  • Bipolar plates
  • MEA (membrane electrode assembly)
  • Electrolyzers
  • Solid-state batteries

Design R2R processes flexibly with the "ScaLab" machine architecture

© Fraunhofer IPT
Modular production system for the continuous production of bipolar plates in a roll-to-roll process

With many years of experience in special machine construction and precision engineering, Fraunhofer IPT has developed the modular, flexible and subsequently adaptable R2R machine architecture "ScaLab" to operate small and medium-scale pilot or series production systems.

Every machine concept starts with this basic architecture and can be individually expanded with various modules to create a production system for scalable production operations. Thanks to short set-up times, cost-effective prototypes can also be produced for small or medium-sized series or validated in proof-of-concept.

In this way, Fraunhofer IPT also tests if applications with a low technology readiness level (TLR 3-7) are suitable for industrial use before they are made available on the market.

Endlessly expand and adapt


The housing is the encapsulation of the production system or individual elements. Made of steel and aluminum, it can be expanded as required via universal interfaces according to the interior design. Depending on the application, special variants of the enclosure can be used, for example laser enclosures, dry and clean room enclosures.


With module-specific interfaces, the platform forms the basic framework for integrating the functional unit. An individual production line can be set up by combining several platforms equipped with functional units. The platforms can be adapted according to customer requirements.


Functional units

The functional unit is the respective process technology of the module. Basic modules such as re- and upwinder systems are included in every R2R system. Examples of frequently used functional units are coating, drying or pick-and-place modules.

The key to the R2R system concept: modularity

Fraunhofer IPT's R2R systems consist of modular housings whose process areas can be adapted to individual production environments, for example, for clean and dry rooms. Within the system technology, we work with R2R platforms that are made up of various functional units. Interchangeable R2R platforms form the basic elements, which are equipped with functional units and integrated into the overall process. These can be inserted into the housing to suit the application, flexibly aligned and exchanged. Fraunhofer IPT develops functional units such as web guiding technology, inline measurement technology, track-and-trace or special modules individually for the desired products and processes. Thanks to the modular machine architecture, the modules can be quickly combined to form new small- to midscale production lines for new research questions.

In addition to the adaptive structure of the system, Fraunhofer IPT is developing a modular control system that allows new R2R platforms and functional units to be integrated quickly and easily according to the plug-and-produce principle. Different process chains can thus be mapped and set up reliably and precisely.

Complementary to the conventional R2R process, semi-continuous processes from roll to plate (R2P) can also be implemented. The main challenges for the production system here are the accuracy and the influence of the individual processes on the web tension and the web run.

From-Lab-to-Fab: Our services at a glance

Feasibility and evaluation

  • Feasibility studies and application development for individual production tasks
  • Evaluation of new and existing continuous manufacturing concepts for products

Plant engineering

  • Prototype production with existing, adaptable R2R systems
  • Functionalization of individual R2R modules for individual processes and technologies for the production of polymer and metal films
  • Development of modular, flexibly configurable, cost-effective R2R pilot systems that can be adapted at any time and are easy to use – from the conception to the construction of an individual continuous production system

Process technology

  • Development of adaptable control and regulation technology for small- to midscale operation as part of research and development projects
  • Development of process monitoring and inspection routes
  • Optimization and expansion of existing R2R systems and retrofits with new process modules