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Solar Manufacturers and Material Developers Look to Aerosol Jet Printing for Improved Cell Efficiency

Published on November 19, 2008 at 6:30 PM

Optomec announced today that the company has received significant orders for its Aerosol Jet Solar Lab system since its introduction earlier this year. The Solar Lab system is a process development platform that enables customers to define and develop improved collector line patterns for current and next generation high-efficiency solar cells by printing much finer collector lines than is currently possible with traditional screen-printing methods. These narrower, high integrity collector lines have higher conductivity and a lower shadowing effect, thereby increasing photovoltaic cell efficiency (>1%). Additionally, the non-contact deposition process used by Aerosol Jet is ideal for printing on thinner wafers. The system is commonly used as a precursor before moving to a full production Aerosol Jet print line solution provided in partnership with Manz Automation.

Dave Ramahi, Optomec’s President and CEO, states, "We are pleased that several prominent solar cell manufacturers have embraced our Aerosol Jet printing technology as a means of improving current cell efficiencies and costs, and as an enabling solution for next generation cell architectures. We are also encouraged that we are starting to see applications and interest from the Thin-Film and Flexible segments of the industry. We expect the demand for our Solar Lab product and the follow-on production print engines to continue to grow.”

Solar Lab customers are using the system for the development of enhanced front-side metallization, including both fully printed and plated collector line alternatives, as well as investigating multi-material collector lines and direct patterning of etchants and dopants. In addition to enabling efficiency gains by producing improved collector lines, the Aerosol Jet process is non-contact, so the system is able to print on wafers that are as thin as 120 microns without breakage. This can lead to a 10-15% increase in wafer output, reducing the amount of raw material usage, and leading to significant cost reduction in the overall manufacturing process.

Research and testing for back-side metallization using the Solar Lab is currently under way at a number of different facilities. The Solar Lab’s capability for back-side metallization addresses the need for next generation thin wafers and unique back-side patterns in an effort to improve overall wafer efficiencies. Using Optomec’s Solar Lab system as a vehicle to prove out the combination of front-side and back-side printing can enable companies to lead to significant efficiency improvement, reduce overall material costs, and reduce overall manufacturing costs.

Optomec is the world-leading provider of additive manufacturing systems for high-performance applications in the Electronics, Photovoltaic, Biomedical, and Aerospace & Defense markets. These systems utilize Optomec’s proprietary M3D Aerosol Jet technology and LENS powder-metal fabrication technology. Optomec’s Aerosol Jet platform recently won the IDTechEx award for best printed electronics manufacturing technology. The company has a global customer base of more than 60 users that includes many industry-leading manufacturers.

M3D, Aerosol Jet and Optomec are registered trademarks of Optomec, Inc.

LENS is a registered trademark of Sandia Corporation.

Posted November 20th, 2008

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