Analyst: Some ups, downs in 2009 PV tool rankings

In a seesaw 2009 the top PV tool companies mostly held court, but there were a few notable changes in the rankings for 2009, some that will affect future ranks, according to VLSI Research.

May 26, 2010 – In a seesaw 2009 the top PV tool companies mostly held court, but there were a few notable changes in the rankings for 2009, some that will affect future ranks, according to VLSI Research.

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Top 10 suppliers of PV manufacturing equipment. (Source: VLSI Research PV Solar)

Overall, the market for PV manufacturing equipment (including polysilicon, ingots, wafering, and cell and module manufacturing) dipped 12.2% in 2009 to $7.7B. Suppliers survived a tough first half of the year by working through their backlogs; by the second half of the year new orders had surged from practically nonexistent to nearly record levels. That whipsaw led to some consolidation and suppliers exiting the market — e.g. Meyer Burger and 3S Swiss Solar Systems, Roth & Rau and OTB, both of which happened too late to be reflected in the 2009 rankings.

Who gained:

Centrotherm rose three spots to No.2, thanks to a move into polysilicon and ingot manufacturing equipment markets.
Ulvac had the best growth of any of the top 10, boosted by their silicon thin-film systems.
ALD Vacuum and NPC, new entrants to the top-10 list, producing tools for ingots and modules, respectively.

Who slipped:

Oerlikon Solar dropped to fifth due to weakness in silicon thin-film. The company now reports these numbers separately from its Systems business which makes crystalline cell manufacturing equipment, though combining them wouldn’t have affected the ranking, VLSI notes.
Roth & Rau had the biggest decline of sales in the top 10, due to heavy exposure to underperforming crystalline cell equipment markets, both for turnkey and standalone systems.
Gebr. Schmid, GT Solar, and Meyer Berger all beat industry growth — but sales dipped reflecting the market trend.

Looking at 2010 expectations, VLSI projects 17.2% growth to $9.0B, though not all segments will enjoy growth. Equipment for silicon thin-film on glass in particular “is likely to remain soft until the technology and competitive cost issues are solved,” VLSI notes.

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