Progress In Cell Production Equipment Segment

TaiyangNews Market Survey On PERC Production Equipment Provides Overview On Latest Devices for Manufacturing Incumbent Cell Technology

Progress In Cell Production Equipment Segment

Caption: The key: Passivation is the main difference associated with PERC vis-à-vis its predecessor BSF, especially applying an active passivation, the process of turning naturally grey silicon wafers into shades of blue (Source: Risen Energy)

  • The most notable development with in the production equipment segment is that processing tools not only made compatible to larger wafers, but also offered with flexibility to shiuft between a few mainstream wafer size.
  • In parallel Production capacity of tools has increased extensively, reducing the number of tools per process line
  • Higher uptime and reduced mechanical yield are the other improvements

The 2 legs that innovation in the solar industry stands on are increasing efficiency and reducing costs, and production equipment is always in the crosshairs. Especially, process tools have a greater influence at the cell process station of PV manufacturing. These tools are almost always top of the agenda in cost reduction discussions. No doubt, processing equipment claims a lion’s share of any company’s capital expenditures; operating costs are also greatly influenced by them.

Over the recent couple of years, there has been tremendous progress in the area of manufacturing tools with considerable increase in throughput, reduced mechanical yield losses and higher uptimes.

A case in point: the unmistakable march that has been taking place in the solar industry towards the larger wafer formats over the last couple of years. After the wafering station itself, the cell processing station has the highest impact in the entire value chain when it comes to a change in wafer size, and the efforts of equipment makers in easing this shift to larger formats is commendable. While the mainstream wafer size till 2019 was 156.75 mm (colloquially known as M2), production tools capable of handling all 3 mainstream wafer sizes – 166 mm (M6), 182 mm (M10) and full square 210 mm (G12) – became commercially available in no time. Flexibility aside, tool vendors have also readapted their equipment platforms to improve productivity in parallel. The production capacity per processing tool has improved so significantly that less than 2 tools per process stations are all it takes to build gigawatt-scale fabs in general.

It isn’t a secret that the PV industry is extensively evaluating several advanced cell architectures in pursuit of higher efficiency. This not only requires process optimization or developing a new process sequence, but often also requires a new production tool set. The equipment supply wing to PV manufacturing has been aptly responding to such requests from cell makers with innovative product platforms. Today, there are commercially available production solutions for several of these advanced cell architectures from multiple vendors, and the list is growing. To put it simply, the progress in production equipment is the key to hit the two major moving targets for cell makers — improved efficiency and cost reduction.

TaiyangNews has been covering special production tools required for the advanced cell architectures through reports such as the recently published TaiyangNews Report on TOPCon Solar Technology 2021, which exclusively covers special production devices required for TOPCon technology. So is the case with heterojunction technology (HJT), the previous report for which can be downloaded for free HERE with an updated version soon to follow.

While there is renewed interest in advanced cell architectures, PERC remains the mainstream technology platform for the gigantic expansions happening in the PV industry. Not only in China, but even in developing markets such as India whose cell production capacity is expected to multiply tenfold in the next 2 to 3 years, PERC continues to be the main technology platform, although options to upgrade to advanced cell architectures have been given more than a thought or two; and India’s Reliance just in April 2022 announced to order 4.8 GW of cell processing equipment for HJT from China.

A lot has happened within the production tools segment even for PERC. As mentioned above, one significant development of its kind is the equipment’s ability to be compatible with larger wafers. Alongside, the tool vendors have been continuously making improvements to their product platforms; though not revolutionary, it is worth taking a note of. This first TaiyangNews report on cell processing equipment for PERC discusses the latest developments associated with the production tools used at the most important process stations of PERC cell manufacturing.

The Text is an excerpt from TaiyangNews’ recent report on PERC Cell Production Equipment 2022, which can be downloaded for free here.

About The Author

Shravan Chunduri

Shravan Chunduri is Head of Technology at TaiyangNews.

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