Applied Materials, Inc. (Nasdaq: AMAT) is making its mark on the solar PV industry with recent acquisition of HCT Shaping Systems and the announcement of the introduction of its Applied SunFab™ Thin Film production line. By applying their four decades of thin film on silicon experience to the manufacturing of solar modules, the company claims that the total volume of solar panels manufactured each year can be vastly increased. At the same time, their products are aimed at reducing the cost per watt of energy produced, to become more competitive with current electricity generation.
HCT Shaping Systems SA (HCT) is the world’s leading supplier of precision wafering systems for manufacturing crystalline silicon (c-Si) substrates for the solar industry. The acquisition of HCT expands Applied’s portfolio of solutions for helping solar customers reduce the costs of manufacturing photovoltaic (PV) cells to make solar energy more competitive with grid electricity.
“This acquisition, combined with our strong production technology and global support infrastructure, will enable us to bring crystalline silicon solar manufacturing to a new level of efficiency and help drive down the cost-per-watt of solar power,” said Mike Splinter, president and CEO of Applied Materials. “HCT’s technology is critical to our roadmap since it complements our high-throughput deposition systems and will enable customers to scale up production and reduce costs.”
Applied SunFab™ is the world’s first and only integrated production line for manufacturing thin film silicon solar modules using 5.7 square meter (m2) glass panels. These ultra-large substrates, sized at 2.2m x 2.6m, are four times bigger than today’s largest thin film solar production panels. This line defines a new standard for the industry that can be replicated by customers around the globe to rapidly establish solar panel manufacturing capacity and achieve the lowest production cost per watt to drive down the cost of solar electricity.
The Applied SunFab Thin Film Line can be configured with single or tandem junction technology and is designed to produce enough solar modules in a year to generate up to 75 megawatts (MW) of electrical power. Using 5.7m2 panels, the SunFab Line can reduce the cost of utility-scale and building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) system installations by more than 20%. Applied has already received multiple contracts for its SunFab Thin Film Line from customers in Europe and Asia.
“We’ve built on our years of experience in semiconductor and flat panel display manufacturing to create the solar industry’s first standardized thin film solution for making solar modules using cost-efficient, ultra-large glass panels,” said Dr. Mark Pinto, senior vice president, chief technology officer and general manager of Applied’s Energy and Environmental Solutions group. “With this state-of-the-art thin film production line and Applied’s global service capabilities, we are well-positioned to accelerate the growth of the solar market by providing an unprecedented ‘cost per watt’ through standardization, scale and efficiency.”
The Applied SunFab Line’s design delivers leading-edge solar manufacturing capability, using the world’s most advanced engineering, process equipment, diagnostics, automation and emissions abatement systems. Applied adapted its production-proven CVD(a) and PVD(a) process systems to build the most critical layers of the module, including its market-leading PECVD(a) system that processes 5.7m2 glass substrates for the flat panel display industry. For more information, visit: http://appliedmaterials.com/products/index_pc3.html.
(a) CVD= chemical vapor deposition; PVD=physical vapor deposition; PECVD=plasma-enhanced CVD