At its annual solar analyst and press briefing today at the Photovoltaic Solar
Energy Conference and Exhibition (PVSEC), Europe's largest solar tradeshow,
executives provided updates on Applied's solar strategy, including highlights
of the company's business and technology roadmaps for both crystalline silicon
(c-Si) and thin-film solar photovoltaics (PV). The company also announced a
number of new c-Si solar PV products.
“We are seeing substantial progress in the global industrialization of
the solar industry,” said Mike Splinter, chairman and CEO of Applied Materials.
“The technology and products Applied is delivering allow our customers
to improve solar panel efficiency and reduce cost per watt, leading us rapidly
toward a future where solar proves itself as the cleanest, most logical and
cost-effective way of generating power.”
Preparing for the Crystalline Silicon Factory of the Future
In his keynote presentation, Dr. Mark Pinto, chief technology officer and general
manager of Applied's Energy and Environmental Solutions Group (EES), highlighted
how factories that make c-Si solar panels are becoming more technically advanced,
with new process steps and automation boosting solar panel efficiency, lowering
manufacturing cost, and driving up factory scale. New tools from Applied's
Precisions Wafering Systems and Baccini Cell Systems divisions are enabling
thinner wafers, precision alignment and deposition, faster processing times
and higher wafer throughput. Advanced automation is leading to better tool-to-tool
process management, substantial material cost reductions and higher quality.
The semiconductor industry serves as an example of how increasing investments
in manufacturing technology can produce cost-effective gains in productivity
and output and enable dramatic cost per watt reductions for end-users.
Pinto contrasted today's mainstream c-Si factory running approximately
1,500 wafers per hour at 16% efficiency - with as much as 2% line breakage -
with the “crystalline factory of the future.” With substantial improvements
in equipment and full automation of facilities by 2012, Pinto predicted that
output will double to more than 3,000 wafers per hour at greater than 20% efficiency
- with breakage cut by more than half.
“To drive performance and reduce costs, the industry will become more
technology-intensive, with new materials, applications, integration schemes,
and factory automation and control,” said Pinto. “In the factory
of the future, Applied expects to address over 55% of the c-Si PV solar manufacturing
opportunity. With Applied's capabilities in equipment and processes, we
continue to look for new areas where we can work with our customers to increase
their output, quality and profitability.”
A number of new products and developments were announced at PVSEC to help industrialize
- Applied Baccini Esatto Technology™, a high precision, multi-step screen
printing capability designed to increase the efficiency of c-Si solar cells
by enabling the fabrication of advanced contact structures.
- DuPont and Applied Materials announced a collaboration to advance multiple-printing
technology for increasing the absolute efficiency of c-Si cells.
- Applied HCT Diamond™ Squarer, an innovative new system with novel
diamond wire technology, designed to reduces the cost of squaring silicon
ingots by up to one-third while offering at least twice the cutting speed
of conventional squaring processes.
- The Applied HCT MaxEdge™ wire saw is now in volume production for
PV wafering applications at key customers in Europe and Asia, including Wacker
Schott Solar. The MaxEdge system revolutionized wire saw technology with the
industry's first dual-wire management system, enabling significantly
higher throughput and load capacity than competitive systems, while requiring
much less factory floor space and fewer operators for equivalent megawatt
- LDK Solar qualified Applied's HCT MaxEdge™ wire saws for volume
production, as part of a large-scale expansion that includes the installation
of more than 50 MaxEdge systems due to be completed in October.
SunFab Thin Film Lines Ramping Around the World
Pinto also provided a global update on the company's SunFab thin film
lines, which deliver the world's largest PV solar panels, capable of producing
over 500 watts each when using Applied's tandem junction technology. Pinto
provided performance data obtained from aperture only testing, which is the
industry's most consistent measure of conversion efficiency. The data
showed that the tandem junction line in volume production today, is achieving
greater than 9% stable aperture area efficiency in manufacturing.
“We continue to make progress in every aspect of the SunFab lines and
are well on our way to delivering 10% efficient SunFab panels and $1 per watt
production costs in 2010, with modules demonstrating this efficiency in our
laboratories today,” said Pinto. “This ramp is among the most aggressive
in the history of the solar industry, adding more than 240 megawatts of solar
panel manufacturing capacity in five countries in less than two years.”
Discussing the future of SunFab development, Pinto laid out plans for panels
with 12% conversion efficiency and module costs below $0.70/watt by 2012.
A Bright Future
George Davis, CFO discussed the FY 2010 financial outlook for the company's
solar businesses and its Energy and Environmental Solutions Group. Applied believes
this new area of the company's business will lead to increasing revenue
and profitability as the global economy recovers and governments around the
world look to technologies like PV solar panels, energy-efficient glass and
LED lighting to help produce and conserve energy. Davis noted that Applied's
c-Si solar business is already generating positive returns and that the company's
EES segment is on track to operating profitability in 2010, excluding certain
“We are moving out of the learning phase of this business to a point
where we believe we can realize the true opportunity,” said Davis. “We
have successfully integrated several acquisitions, launched numerous new products
and are seeing renewed interest in our SunFab products. It is a very exciting