AMAT Introduces New Solar PV Wire Saw

Applied Materials Inc. released its Applied HCT MaxEdge wire saw, a new platform for slicing ingots into ultra-thin wafers that can help customers drive down the cost of manufacturing solar photovoltaic (PV) cells by up to US $0.18 per watt, assuming a polysilicon price of $55/kg.

By making thinner wafers, PV cell manufacturers can reduce the amount of silicon per wafer and lower the cost-per-watt of solar electricity. To produce thinner wafers, traditional wire saws must reduce the ingot length (load) and the cutting speed.

“With the MaxEdge system we’ve boosted the wafer output and lowered the operating expenses of our industry-leading Applied HCT B5 system, making the best wire saw on the market even better,” said Stefan Schneeberger, vice president and general manager of Applied Materials’ Precision Wafering Systems division. “Since the wafer is the most expensive component of crystalline silicon-based PV manufacturing flow, reducing wafer fabrication cost is critical to the goal of making solar energy competitive with grid power.”

The MaxEdge system’s dual-wire management system employs four independently-controlled direct drive motors and advanced process control to lower wire tension, reducing wire wear and decreasing ingot scrap and unplanned downtime. Reduced tension also allows smaller diameter cutting wires to be used, resulting in less silicon loss without compromising yield, the company said.

In a related story, ENN Solar Energy Co. Ltd. has produced one of China’s first 5.7m², tandem junction thin-film photovoltaic (PV) panels using an Applied Materials SunFab Thin Film Line. The line is rated to produce 60 megawatts of panels per year. ENN and Applied reached this point five months after equipment installation. These PV panels are nearly four times larger than conventional modules on the market and are likely to be used for utility scale projects.

“By combining the high efficiency of tandem junction technology with ultra-large 5.7m² substrates, we’re able to deliver modules that dramatically reduce installed cost per watt,” said Dr. Rick Wan, general manager of ENN Solar. “Our close association with Applied Materials has enabled ENN to build a winning platform, combining our next-generation solar technology with our world-class manufacturing capability.”

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