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Title:
FILLING SYSTEM FOR SPIN COATER COATING CARTRIDGES
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2016/209255
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A filling system (10) for filling a coating cartridge (16) of a spin coater includes a pressurized air source (20) and a container (12) connectable with the pressurized air source (20). An air valve (175) is located in an air flow path (AF) between the pressurized air source (20) and the container (12). A fill switch (26) is operatively connected to the air valve (175). A tubing (18) is connectable with the container (12). A movable connection element (55) is connected to the tubing (18). A fluid valve (88) is located in a coating material flow path (CF) between the container (12) and the connection element (55). A stop switch (28) is operatively connected to the fluid valve (88).

Inventors:
KOENIG, Jerry, L., II (8382 Wrens Way, Largo, Florida, 33773, US)
Application Number:
US2015/037935
Publication Date:
December 29, 2016
Filing Date:
June 26, 2015
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
TRANSITIONS OPTICAL, INC. (9251 Belcher Road, Pinellas Park, Florida, 33782, US)
International Classes:
B65B57/14; B65B3/14; B65B37/14; B65B39/06
Domestic Patent References:
WO1980001797A11980-09-04
Foreign References:
DE102013214616A12015-01-29
US20100243667A12010-09-30
EP0229995A11987-07-29
EP2319477A12011-05-11
FR2183358A51973-12-14
Other References:
None
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FORTNEY, Lester, N. et al. (The Webb Law Firm, 420 Ft. Duquesne Blvd Suite 1200,One Gateway Cente, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, 15222, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
WHAT IS CLAIMED IS:

1. A filling system (10) for filling a coating cartridge (16) of a spin coater, comprising:

a pressurized air source (20) connected to a container (12);

an air valve (175) located in an air flow path (AF) between the pressurized air source (20) and the container (12);

a fill switch (26) operatively connected to the air valve (175);

a tubing (18) connected with the container (12) and with a movable connection element (55);

a fluid valve (88) located in a coating material flow path (CF) between the container (12) and the connection element (55); and

a stop switch (28) operatively connected to the fluid valve (88).

2. The filling system (10) of claim 1 , further comprising a pressure regulator (178) in the air flow path (AF) between the pressurized air source (20) and the container (12).

3. The filling system (10) of claims 1 or 2, further comprising a filter (76) located in the coating material flow path (CF) between the container (12) and the connection element (55).

4. The filling system (10) of any of claims 1 to 3, wherein at least one of the fill switch (26) and the stop switch (28) is a mechanical limit switch.

5. The filling system (10) of any of claims 1 to 4, wherein the fill switch (26) comprises a pivotable actuation arm (99).

6. The filling system (10) of any of claims 1 to 5, wherein the stop switch (28) comprises a vertically movable actuation arm (108).

7. The filling system (10) of any of claims 1 to 6, wherein the connection element (55) includes an engagement member (56) configured to releaseably engage an engagement element (52) on a coating cartridge (16).

8. The filling system (10) of any of claims 1 to 7, wherein the connection element (55) is pivotally connected to at least one support (57).

9. The filling system (10) of any of claims 1 to 8, including an on/off valve (173) located in the air flow path (AF) between the pressure source (20) and the container (12).

10. The filling system (10) of any of claims 1 to 9, including a start switch (174) and an emergency stop switch (176), wherein at least one of the start switch (174) and the emergency stop switch (176) is operatively connected to the air valve (174).

11. The filling system (10) of any of claims 1 to 10, including a removable coating unit (89), wherein the coating unit (89) comprises the container (12), the tubing (18), the fluid valve (88), and the connection element (55), and wherein the coating unit (89) is removable as a unitary member.

12. The filling system (10) of claim 11 , wherein the coating unit (89) further comprises at least one of a cap (68) and a filter (76).

13. The filling system (10) of claim 1 , comprising:

a coating unit (89) comprising the container (12), the tubing (18), the fluid valve (88), the connection element (55), and a filter (76), wherein the coating unit (89) is removable as a unitary member from the filling system (10),

wherein the fill switch (26) is a mechanical limit switch comprising a pivotable actuation arm (99), and wherein the stop switch (28) is a mechanical limit switch comprising a vertically movable actuation arm (108).

14. A method of filling a coating cartridge (16) for a spin coater, comprising:

connecting an engagement element (52) of a coating cartridge (16) to an engagement member (56) of a connecting element (55) in flow communication with a container (12) of coating material;

pivoting the connection element (55) and the coating cartridge (16) from a first position (FP) to a second position (SP) such that the coating cartridge (16) activates a fill switch (26) to open an air valve (174) in an air flow path (AF) between a pressurized air source (20) and the container (12); and

filling the coating cartridge (16) with coating material until a full indicator (30) activates a stop switch (28) to close a fluid valve (88) in a coating material flow path (CF) between the container (12) and the connection element (55).

15. The method of claim 14, wherein the coating cartridge (16) comprises a syringe (16) having a movable plunger (50), wherein the fill indicator (30) is located on the plunger (50), wherein the fill switch (26) comprises a pivotable actuation arm (99), wherein the stop switch (28) comprises a vertically movable actuation arm (108), and wherein the method further comprises pivoting the syringe (16) from the first position (FP) to the second position (SP) to cause the syringe (16) to pivot the actuation arm (99) to actuate the fill switch (26).

Description:
FILLING SYSTEM FOR SPIN COATER COATING CARTRIDGES

BACKGROUND

Field of the Invention

[0001] The present invention relates generally to spin coaters and, more particularly, to a filling system and method of using the filling system for accurately and efficiently filtering and filling coating cartridges for small-scale spin coaters.

Description of Related Art

[0002] Spin coating processes and associated spin coating machines, generally called spin coaters, are used to provide a uniform coating on substrates, such as ophthalmic lenses. Existing spin coaters typically are used in a production line for the application of a single type of coating material. This results in difficulty with regard to quickly switching the production line for the application of different coating materials, such as for different substrates and/or for different final products. The coating material reservoir and the dispensing nozzle assembly must be purged and cleaned to accommodate the change in coating material.

[0003] Small-scale spin coaters have been developed that can accommodate multiple coating compositions. An exemplary small-scale spin coater utilizes an indexable coating platform containing a plurality of replaceable coating cartridges containing different coating materials. A particular coating cartridge can be selected to apply a particular coating material onto a substrate.

[0004] A need exits to effectively filter and fill these coating cartridges with coating material. Impurities in the coating material can lead to imperfections in the applied coating. An imperfection in one coating layer can lower the quality of the entire ophthalmic lens. Therefore, it is desirable that the coating material in the coating cartridges be pure and free of gases and other unwanted particulates. It is also desirable to be able to precisely control the amount of the coating material placed in the coating cartridges to prevent waste of coating material. It is further desirable to be able to fill different coating cartridges with different coating materials in a quick and easy manner. SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0005] A filling system for filling a coating cartridge of a spin coater includes a pressurized air source. A container is connected to the pressurized air source. An air valve is located in an air flow path between the pressurized air source and the container. A fill switch is operatively connected to the air valve. A tubing has a first end and a second end, with the first end of the tubing connected to the container. A movable connection element is connected to the second end of the tubing. A fluid valve is located in a coating material flow path between the container and the connection element. A stop switch is operatively connected to the fluid valve.

[0006] A method of filling a coating cartridge for a spin coater includes connecting an engagement element of a coating cartridge to an engagement member of a connecting element, wherein the connecting element is in flow communication with a container of coating material; pivoting the connection element and the coating cartridge from a first position to a second position such that the coating cartridge activates a fill switch to open an air valve in an air flow path between a pressurized air source and the container; and filling the coating cartridge with coating material until a full indicator activates a stop switch to close a fluid valve in a coating material flow path between the container and the connection element.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0007] The present invention will now be described in detail with reference to the accompanying figures wherein like reference characters refer to like parts throughout.

[0008] Fig. 1 is a front view of an exemplary filling system of the invention, prior to the introduction of a coating cartridge to be filled;

[0009] Fig. 2 is a simplified schematic diagram of the filling system of the invention;

[0010] Fig. 3 is a front view of a coating cartridge in the form of a disposable syringe for use in a small-scale spin coater;

[0011] Fig. 4 is a perspective view of a coating unit of the invention;

[0012] Fig. 5 is a side, perspective view of the filling system of Fig. 1 with the syringe of Fig. 3 secured thereto, and with the syringe in an inactive filling position;

[0013] Fig. 6 is a side, perspective view of the filling system of Fig. 1 , with the syringe of Fig. 3 secured thereto, and with the syringe in an active filling position; and

[0014] Fig. 7 is a side, perspective view of the filling system of Fig. 6, after the syringe has been filled. DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0015] Spatial or directional terms, such as "left", "right", "top", "bottom", and the like, relate to the invention as it is shown in the drawing figures. It is to be understood that the invention can assume various alternative orientations and, accordingly, such terms are not to be considered as limiting. All numbers used in the specification and claims are to be understood as being modified in all instances by the term "about". All ranges disclosed herein are to be understood to encompass the beginning and ending range values and any and all subranges subsumed therein. The ranges set forth herein represent the average values over the specified range. The terms "polymer" or "polymeric" include oligomers, homopolymers, copolymers, and terpolymers. The term "ophthalmic lens" means a prescription or non-prescription lens for eyewear. The term "proximal" refers to the portion of the component closer to a user handling the component. The term "distal" refers to a portion of the component farther from a user handling the component. As used herein, "a", "an", and "the" refer to one or more. By "releaseably engage" or "releaseably connected" is meant that the components can be connected and disconnected from one another. By "unitary member" is meant that the member, even if composed of multiple pieces, can be handled as a single component.

[0016] The invention comprises, consists of, or consists essentially of, the following aspects of the invention, in any combination. Various aspects of the invention are illustrated in separate drawing figures. However, it is to be understood that this is simply for ease of illustration and discussion. In the practice of the invention, one or more aspects of the invention shown in one drawing figure can be combined with one or more aspects of the invention shown in one or more of the other drawing figures.

[0017] With reference to Figs. 1 and 2, a filling system 10 includes a container 12 having a reservoir 14. The reservoir 14 can contain a fluid F, such as a coating material, for example, a liquid coating material. The coating material can be any conventional spin coater coating material.

[0018] A conduit, such as a tubing 18, is connected to the container 12. The tubing 18 is in flow communication with the reservoir 14. The tubing 18 is connectable to a coating cartridge. The coating cartridge can be in the form of a syringe, as described in more detail below. The tubing 18 defines a coating material flow path CF from the container 12 to the coating cartridge. The terms "connected" and "connectable" encompasses both direct connection, i.e., direct contact, and indirect connection, i.e., through one or more parts or intermediate members. By "in flow communication" is meant that fluid, for example, liquid, can flow from one component to the other. "Tubing" means a tube, a conduit, or a series of tubes or conduits, formed from any material, including glass, plastic, metal, or any other material useful in carrying fluid, such as a liquid. The exterior of the tubing 18, as well as the internal channel, may be of any shape, including cylindrical or rectangular.

[0019] The filling system 10 includes a pressure system 19. The pressure system19 includes a pressure source 20. The pressure source 20 can be a source of pressurized air, such as an air compressor 22 or a container of pressurized air. The pressure source 20 is connected with the container 12 and the reservoir 14 by one or more air hoses 24. The air hose(s) 24 define an air flow path AF between the pressure source 20 and the container 12. A variety of suitable air hoses 24 are commercially available, such as an Iron Horse® air hose, and are normally made from braided PVC or reinforced synthetic rubber.

[0020] The system 10 includes one or more limit switches. The limit switches can be, for example, mechanical limit switches, magnetic limit switches, proximity switches, or electronic limit switches. In the illustrated example, the system 10 includes a fill switch 26 (first limit switch) and a stop switch 28 (second limit switch). As described in more detail below, until the fill switch 26 is activated, the pressure source 20 is prevented from providing the container 12 with pressurized air. Once the switch 26 is activated, pressurized air can flow from the pressure source 20 to the first container 12. When the coating cartridge has been filled, the stop switch 28 is activated, preventing the flow of fluid F from the reservoir 14 into the syringe.

[0021] Prior to describing the components of the exemplary filling system 10 in detail, an overview of the operation of the filling system 10 will be described, with particular reference to Fig. 2. The container 12 is placed in flow communication with a coating cartridge, for example, a syringe 16, via the tubing 18. A fluid valve 88 is disposed at a location along the coating material flow path CF, e.g., along the tubing 18, for controlling the flow of coating material. The fluid valve 88 is transitionable from a first position, i.e., open position, in which the container 12 and the syringe 16 are in fluid communication, to a second position, i.e., closed position, in which fluid F is prevented from flowing from the container 12 to the syringe 16. The stop switch 28 is connected to the fluid valve 88. The fill switch 26 is connected to an air valve 175 located in the air flow path AF.

[0022] The pressure system 19 is regulated by a control unit 170 comprising an on/off switch 172 that transitions an on/off valve 173 located in the air flow path AF to permit or prevent the flow of air from the pressure source 20 to the container 12; a start button 174 to start and stop the air compressor 22; and an emergency stop (E- stop) button 176. The control unit 170 may utilize any useful combination of valves and/or regulators to control the flow and regulate the pressure of the air from the compressor 22 to the container12. For example, the start button 174 and the E-stop button 176 can be connected to the air valve 175 located downstream of the on/off valve 173. The start button 174 is adapted to open the air valve 175. The E-stop button 176 is configured to close the valve 175.

[0023] A pressure regulator 178 is located in the air flow path AF. The pressure regulator 178 controls the air pressure delivered to the container 12. The pressure regulator 178 is advantageously adjustable to a range of air pressures so that the pressure of the air supplied to the container 12 may be optimized for the viscosity of each particular fluid F used. For example, the pressure regulator 178 can be set to provide air at a pressure in the range of 5 psig to 50 psig, such as 5 psig to 40 psig, such as 5 psig to 30 psig, such as 5 psig to 20 psig. A pressure gauge 180 may be located downstream of the regulator 178 to visually display air pressure within the air hose(s) 24.

[0024] The fill switch 26 is normally in an open position. In the open position, the air valve 175 is closed and pressurized air is prevented from flowing to the container 12. When the fill switch 26 is closed, for example by mechanical activation by a syringe 16 as described below, the air valve 175 opens and pressurized air will be permitted to flow to the container 12. When the syringe 16 has been filled, the stop switch 28 is activated, which closes the fluid valve 88, preventing the flow of the coating material from the container 12 to the syringe 16.

[0025] Fig. 3 illustrates a coating cartridge in the form of a syringe 16. The syringe 16 is particularly well suited for use as a coating cartridge in a small-scale spin coater. The syringe 16 has a generally cylindrical barrel 32 and can be formed from glass, plastic, or metal. The barrel 32 has a proximal end 34 (first end), a distal end 36 (second end), a sidewall 38, and a longitudinal axis 40. A fluid delivery section, such as a nozzle 42, extends from the distal end 36 of the barrel 32. A flange 101 is located at the proximal end 34 of the syringe 16. The barrel 32 has an outer surface 44 and an inner surface 46 that define an interior 48. The syringe 16 includes a plunger 50 that is reciprocally slideable through the barrel 32. The plunger 50 forms a liquid-tight seal against the inner surface 46 of the barrel 32 as the plunger 50 is advanced or withdrawn through the barrel 32. A full indicator 30 is located on or connected to the plunger 50. For example, the full indicator 30 can be disposed on the proximal end of the plunger 50. The full indicator 30 may be, for example, a component having a weight sufficient to transition the stop switch 28 to its activated position. It is to be understood that the system 10 is not limited to use with the syringe 16 but can be used with commercially available syringes of all sizes, including 10 ml, 30 ml, and 55 ml syringes.

[0026] As illustrated in Fig. 3, the nozzle 42 contains an engagement element 52. For example, the engagement element 52 can comprise a threaded portion forming a female luer lock member. The engagement element 52 is configured to connect to an engagement member 56, e.g., a threaded male member, disposed on a connection element 55 connected to the tubing 18 to create a fluid path between the syringe 16 and the container 12. The engagement member 56 connects with the engagement element 52 to create a leak-free sealed connection. As will be appreciated, the arrangement of the engagement member 56 and the engagement element 52 may be reversed. Of course, any useful detachable connection capable of forming a sealed fluid path between the interior 48 of the syringe 16 and the tubing 18, such as an interference fit connection, or a snap fit connection, may be utilized.

[0027] The barrel 32 allows for the printing of human and/or machine readable identification indicia, including bar codes, quick response (QR) codes, and/or matrix codes. Machine readable identification indicia may include information relating to fluid identification, such as specific coating parameters associated with a particular fluid.

[0028] With reference to Fig. 4, the container 12 has a generally cylindrical barrel 58 having a proximal end 60 (first end), a distal end 62 (second end), and a sidewall 64. The barrel 58 can be formed from glass, plastic, or metal. The fluid reservoir 14 has a volume that is equal to or greater than the volume of the interior 48 of the syringe 16. The proximal end 60 of the barrel 58 is configured to receive a removable cap 68.

[0029] The cap 68 may be fastened to the barrel 58 by a threaded connection, a snap-fit connection, or any other detachable connection capable of providing an air tight seal. A valve stem 70 having a center pin 72 protrudes from the cap 68. A conduit 74 extends the length of the valve stem 70 and fluidly connects the reservoir 14 to the external environment. When the cap 68 is secured to the barrel 58 and the center pin 72 is in a surface position, the center pin 72 seals the tip of the conduit 74, thereby isolating the fluid reservoir 14 from the external environment. When the cap 68 is secured to the barrel 58 and the center pin 72 is in a depressed position, such as occurs when the air hose 24 is attached to the valve stem 70, the fluid reservoir 14 is in fluid communication with the external environment. A fluid delivery section, such as a nozzle 75, extends from the distal end 62 of the barrel 58.

[0030] A filter 76 is removably connected to or is part of the tubing 18. With continued reference to Fig. 4, the second end 62 of the container 12 is connected to a first end 78 of a filter body 80. The filter body 80 may be made from materials such as polypropylene, nylon, or a similar material. Filter material is disposed within the filter body 80 and may be, for example, polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), nylon, or other treated products useful in filtering. As the fluid F passes from the reservoir 14 through the filter 76, the filter material removes particulates, gases, bacteria and other unwanted impurities from the fluid F. The filter 76 may be connected to the container 12 by a luer lock connection, an interference fit connection, a snap fit connection, or any other connection useful in providing an easily detachable, yet fluid tight seal.

[0031] In an assembled state, with reference to Figs. 4 and 5, a first end 82 of the tubing 18 is connected to a second end 84 of the filter 76. The connection element 55, providing fluid connection to the syringe 16, is connected to a second end 86 of the tubing 18. The engagement member 56 disposed on the connection element 55 is reversibly connectable to the engagement element 52 of the nozzle 42, providing a fluid pathway between the interior 48 of the syringe 16 and the reservoir 14 through the tubing 18. The connection element 55 is configured to pivot the syringe 16 from a first position FP, i.e., an inactive position, for example, in which the syringe 16 forms a 45┬░ angle to a ground surface, to a second position SP, i.e., an active position, for example, in which the syringe 16 is upright. In the inactive position, the syringe 16 can easily be connected to and disconnected from the connection element 55. The connection element 55 can be pivotally mounted between a pair of spaced supports 57.

[0032] With reference to Figs. 4 and 5, two or more of the container 12, the cap 68, the filter 76, the tubing 18, the fluid valve 88, and the connection element 55 can be releaseably connected with each other. For example, by quick release fittings, screw fittings, snap fittings, and the like. [0033] As shown in Fig. 4, the container 12, the cap 68, the filter 76, the tubing 18, the fluid valve 88, and the connection element 55 can form a coating unit 89. The coating unit 89 can be removable and replaceable from the filling system 10 as a unitary member, i.e., without disassembling the coating unit 89 into its individual components. For example, the coating unit 89 can be mounted in a framework by one or more conventional quick release fittings (not shown). To replace the coating unit

89, the air hose 24 can be disconnected from the cap 68 and a pneumatic control line

91 can be disconnected from the fluid valve 88. The quick release fittings can be disengaged and the entire coating unit 89 can be removed. A new coating unit 89, for example having a different coating material in the container 12, can then be connected to the quick release fittings. The air hose 24 can be connected to the cap 68 and the control line 91 can be connected to the fluid valve 88. Replacing the coating unit 89 as a unitary member rather than simply replacing the container 12 when a new coating material is desired eliminates the need to flush and clean the filter 76, tubing 18, fluid valve 88, and connection element 55 when a new coating material is desired.

[0034] In the assembled state, the reservoir 14 can be placed in flow communication with the interior 48 of the syringe 16. As described above, the fluid valve 88 is disposed at a position along the length of the tubing 18 and is transitionable from an open position, in which there is fluid communication between the reservoir 14 and the interior 48 of the syringe 16, to a closed position, in which fluid communication between the reservoir 14 and the interior 48 of the syringe 16 is prevented. The fluid valve 88 comprises a base 90 through which the fluid F flows and an actuator 92 mounted on the base 90. The actuator 92, used in controlling the opening and closing of the base

90, can be a pneumatic actuator having a pneumatic control line 91. Of course, other types of actuators, such as electrically operated actuators, could be used. As pressurized air travels from the compressor 22 to the fluid valve 88, the actuator 92 transitions the base 90 to control the flow of fluid F through the tubing 18. The actuator

92 is operatively connected to the stop switch 28.

[0035] Referencing Figs. 6 and 7, the fill switch 26 and the stop switch 28 control the opening and closing of the air valve 175 and the fluid valve 88, respectively. With specific reference to Fig. 6, the fill switch 26 is mechanically activated by the syringe 16 as the connection element 55 is pivoted from its inactive position to its active position. Activating the fill switch 26 transitions the air valve 175 from the closed position to the open position. A platform 98 is located a distance above the connection element 55. The platform 98 can include a receiver 100 to engage the syringe 16 during filling. The fill switch 26 can be connected to the platform 98. For example, the fill switch 26 can include an actuation arm 99 pivotally secured to the platform 98 and adapted to pivot horizontally about a hinge 102 to contact, e.g., depress, a control button 106. The hinge 102 is located a vertical distance above the connection element 55, for example, along the same vertical plane, and laterally off to a side.

[0036] The fill switch 26 is biased in a manner such that in the open, inactive state, an unhinged end 104 of the arm 99 rests an elevated distance in front of the connection element 55. When a biasing force is applied to the arm 99 when the syringe 16 is pivoted into an upright position and into the receiver 100, the unhinged end 104 will pivot to its active position at an elevated position behind the connection element 55. The arm 99 contacts, e.g., depresses, the control button 106. This activates the fill switch 26, causing the air valve 175 to open and pressurized air to flow to the container 12. The pressure of the pressurized air in the top of the container 12 pushes the coating material out of the reservoir 14, through the tubing 18, through the fluid valve 88, through the connection element 55, and into the interior 48 of the syringe 16. When in the upright position, the flange 101 on the syringe 16 can contact the top of the platform 98 to help hold the syringe 16 in place during filling.

[0037] The stop switch 28 is transitionable between an open position and a closed position. In the open position, the fluid valve 88 is open, allowing the fluid F to flow from the reservoir 14 into the syringe 16. When the stop switch 28 is closed, i.e., activated, the fluid valve 88 closes and prevents fluid F from flowing from the reservoir 14 into the syringe 16.

[0038] With specific reference to Fig. 7, the stop switch 28 is activated by the full indicator 30 disposed on the proximal end of the plunger 50. The stop switch 28 can be secured to the platform 98 above the connection element 55. The stop switch 28 includes an actuation arm 108 that is movable in a vertical direction between a lower, inactivated, position and a higher, activated position. The platform 98 itself is vertically adjustable along a track to accommodate syringes 16 of different heights and/or to adjust the volume of coating material to be added to the syringe 16. The height of the platform 98 may be adjusted along the track and the platform 98 locked at a desired location by any conventional locking mechanism.

[0039] As the syringe 16 fills with fluid F, the fluid F displaces the plunger 50 toward the proximal end 34 of the barrel 32. When the syringe 16 has been filled, the full indicator 30 contacts the actuation arm 108 and moves the actuation arm 108 upwardly to its higher, closed position. Activating the stop switch 28 closes the fluid valve 88 and stops the flow of coating material into the syringe 16.

[0040] To secure the syringe 16 to the connection element 55, the user pivots the connection element 55 to its inactive, angular position. The engagement element 52 on the syringe 16 is engaged with the engagement member 56 on the connection element 55, as shown in Fig. 5. With the nozzle 42 of the syringe 16 secured to the connection element 55, the syringe 16 is rotated to a vertical position. In the vertical position, the barrel 32 of the syringe 16 transitions the fill switch 26 to its closed (activated) position. This transitions the air valve 175 to its open position, allowing pressurized air to flow into the top of the container 12.

[0041] With the air valve 175 in its open position, pressing the start button 174 activates the air compressor 22 to begin the flow of air from the compressor 22 to the container 12. The pressurized air will drive the fluid F from the reservoir 14, through the filter 76, and the tubing 18, and up into the interior 48 of the syringe 16 via the nozzle 42. As the interior volume 48 of the syringe 16 fills with fluid F, the plunger 50 will be displaced towards the proximal end 34 of the barrel 32, as shown by FIG. 6. After the syringe 16 has been filled to the desired height, the weighted full indicator 30 will transition the actuation arm 108 of the stop switch 28 to the closed position, as shown in Fig. 7. This will close the fluid valve 88 and prevent the further flow of fluid F into the syringe 16.

[0042] The syringe filling system 10 is then turned off and the syringe 16 is pulled forward, pivoting the connection element 55 to its angled position and in turn returning the actuation arm 99 of the fill switch 26 to its forward, inactivated position, which closes the air valve 175. The syringe 16 may then be disengaged from the connection element 55. The process may be repeated several times to accurately and efficiently fill several syringes 16 to the same or different volumes.

[0043] To fill syringes 16 with a different coating material, the container 12 can be disengaged from the air hose 24 and the tubing 18. Another container 12 with a different coating material can be connected to the filling system 10. The filter 76, tubing 18, fluid valve 88, and connection element 55 can be flushed with a cleaning solution prior to connection with the new container 12. Alternatively, the coating unit 89 may be removed as a unitary member. Multiple coating units 89 with different coating materials can be kept in inventory. When a coating change is desired or when an empty container 12 is to be replaced, the old coating unit 89 can be disconnected from the filling system 10 and a new coating unit 89 installed as a unitary member. This greatly decreases the time required to change coating materials or to replace empty containers 12.

[0001] The invention can be further characterized in the following numbered clauses.

[0002] Clause 1 : A filling system 10 for filling a coating cartridge 16 of a spin coater comprises a pressurized air source 20 and a container 12 in flow communication with the pressurized air source 20. An air valve 175 is located in an air flow path AF between the pressurized air source 20 and the container 12. A fill switch 26 is operatively connected to the air valve 175. A tubing 18 is in flow communication with the container 12 and a movable connection element 55. A fluid valve 88 is located in a coating material flow path CF between the container 12 and the connection element 55. A stop switch 28 is operatively connected to the fluid valve 88.

[0003] Clause 2: The filling system 10 of clause 1 , wherein the pressure source 20 is connected to the container 12 by at least one air hose 24.

[0004] Clause 3: The filling system 10 of clauses 1 or 2, wherein at least one of the fill switch 26 and the stop switch 28 is a mechanical limit switch.

[0005] Clause 4: The filling system 10 of any of clauses 1 to 3, including an on/off valve 173 located in the air flow path AF.

[0006] Clause 5: The filling system 10 of clause 4, wherein the on/off valve 173 is operatively connected to an on/off switch 172.

[0007] Clause 6: The filling system 10 of any of clauses 1 to 5, including at least one of a start button 174 and an emergency stop button 176 operatively connected to the air valve 175.

[0008] Clause 7: The filling system 10 of any of clauses 1 to 6, including a pressure regulator 178 located in the air flow path AF.

[0009] Clause 8: The filling system 10 of clause 7, wherein the pressure regulator 178 is an adjustable regulator and is adjustable to provide air at a pressure in the range of 5 psig to 50 psig, such as 5 psig to 40 psig, such as 5 psig to 30 psig, such as 5 psig to 20 psig.

[0010] Clause 9: The filling system 10 of any of clauses 1 to 8, including a cap 68 connectable with the container 12.

[0011] Clause 10: The filling system 10 of clause 9, wherein the cap 68 is releaseably connected to an air hose 24 connected to the pressure source 20. [0012] Clause 11 : The filling system 10 of any of clauses 1 to 10, including a filter 76 removably connected to the tubing 18.

[0013] Clause 12: The filling system 10 of any of clauses 1 to 11 , including a removable coating unit 89, wherein the coating unit 89 comprises the container 12, the tubing 18, the fluid valve 88, and the connection element 55.

[0014] Clause 13: The filling system 10 of clause 12, wherein the coating unit 89 further comprises at least one of a cap 68 and a filter 76.

[0015] Clause 14: The filling system 10 of any of clauses 1 to 13, wherein the connection element 55 is pivotally mounted on at least one support 57.

[0016] Clause 15: The filling system 10 of any of clauses 1 to 14, wherein the connection element 55 includes an engagement member 52 configured to releaseably engage an engagement element 56 of a coating cartridge 16.

[0017] Clause 16: The filling system 10 of any of clauses 1 to 15, wherein the fill switch 26 is a mechanical limit switch comprising a pivotable actuation arm 99 configured to contact a control button 106.

[0018] Clause 17: The filling system 10 of any of clauses 1 to 16, wherein the stop switch 28 includes an actuation arm 108 vertically movable between an inactivated position and an activated position.

[0019] Clause 18: The filling system 10 of any of clauses 1 to 17, wherein at least one of the fill switch 26 and the stop switch 28 is located on a vertically moveable platform 98.

[0020] Clause 19: A method of filling a coating cartridge 16 for a spin coater comprises connecting an engagement element 52 of a coating cartridge 16 to an engagement member 56 of a connecting element 55 in flow communication with a container 12 of coating material; pivoting the connection element 55 from a first position FP to a second position SP to cause a coating cartridge 16 to activate a fill switch 26 to open an air valve 174 in an air flow path AF between a pressurized air source 20 and the container 12; and filling the coating cartridge 16 with coating material until a full indicator 30 activates a stop switch 28 to close a fluid valve 88 in a coating material flow path CF between the container 12 and the connection element 55.

[0021] Clause 20: A removable coating unit 89 for a spin coater filling system 10 comprises a container 12, a tubing 18 connected with the container 12, a fluid valve 88 operatively connected with the tubing 18, and a connection element 55 connected with the tubing 18.

[0022] Clause 21 : The removable coating unit 89 of clause 20, wherein the coating unit 89 further comprises a cap 68 connected with the container.

[0023] Clause 22: The removable coating unit 89 of clauses 20 or 21 , wherein the coating unit 89 further comprises a filter 76 connected with the tubing 18.

[0024] While the invention has been described having exemplary designs, the invention can be further modified within the spirit and scope of this disclosure. The invention covers any variation, use, or adaptations of the disclosure using its general principles. Further, the invention covers such departures from the present disclosure as come within known or customary practice in the art to which the invention pertains and which fall within the limits of the claims.