The theme of TaiyangNews’ latest technology report is cell production equipment, which is a major determining factor in the progress of solar cell technology. These devices are the first line of optimization when switching to new cell architectures, and they hugely influence the top 3 characteristics of cell fabs – efficiency, CapEx, and OpEx. The supply side for PV production equipment has been responding to the dynamic requirements of the cell makers from time to time. Tool platforms to support advanced cell architectures, accommodating ever-changing wafer sizes, reducing the CapEx via increasing productivity and optimizing material consumptionto lower the operation costs are a few to highlight. The industry’s successful march to advanced cell architectures such as TOPCon and HJT would not have been possible without the strong support from the production equipment side.
TaiyangNews has been covering special production tools required for advanced cell architectures through exclusive reports on heterojunction (HJT), TOPCon and even PERC. Indeed, we recently published the TaiyangNews Report on Heterojunction Solar Technology 2023 that covered the latest advancements associated with production tools for HJT. We have also been doing the same with TOPCon by covering the special production tools it requires. While the same holds true for PERC, there is little scope for new developments since it gained the state-of-the-art status, diverting the industry’s focus to advanced cell architectures. However, we did cover some residual optimization potential for PERC at the equipment level mid-2022 in TaiyangNews Market Survey PERC Cell Production Equipment. A major chunk of expansion at the time was still based on PERC, but things have changed rapidly since. Very quickly, but strongly, TOPCon is becoming the mainstream technology, at least for the new expansion plans, and a few are also working with HJT. While there indeed is a last round of investment happening into PERC, the investments themselves are meager. These are the companies that quickly want to enter production with decent efficiency levels, which is still doable with PERC. The lines are termed ‘TOPCon-ready’, however, meaning the companies are fully aware that they would need to upgrade to TOPCon in the near future.
Such an upgrade is not complex, at least in principle, as TOPCon has always been considered the line extension for PERC. Indeed, the TOPCon production line requires only a few additional tool sets over PERC, though the tweak itself is considerable when looked at in detail. Most importantly, the latest developments in production tools are focused on TOPCon.
Adapting to the current market trend, TaiyangNews has extended the scope of the production equipment survey to TOPCon. In this new survey, we mainly focus on the latest developments associated with the key production equipment used for TOPCon processing, whilst also covering the updates related to PERC processing tools, which are part of TOPCon too.
The report covers the key steps needed for producing TOPCon solar cells as well technical specifications for products of the major suppliers (chapter 8).
We also have conducted interviews with executives of leading equipment and materials suppliers in the cell processing space – Laplace, Leadmicr, DKEM.