Manz Automation AG draws positive balance from successful trade fair presence

09/28/2009 07:40:00 CEST

  • New orders and declarations of intent worth more than EUR 5 million acquired
  • Further orders expected in the coming weeks
  • Presentation of six new machines underscores Manz Automation’s innovation lead

Manz Automation AG, one of the world's leading technology providers for the photovoltaic and LCD industry, has acquired a large number of new orders at the 24th European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition in Hamburg. This is the most important event in the industry, and during the fair the company acquired orders and declarations of intent with a volume of more than EUR 5 million. These will mostly be recognized in revenues and earnings in the coming fiscal year. The solar sector showed its dynamic nature at the trade fair, setting initial positive signals after the weak first half of 2009. Together with its strategic alliance partner Roth & Rau, Manz Automation had one of the largest stands at the exhibition. The company attracted a huge number of interested, expert visitors with its presentation of high-tech machines in action. In particular the new equipment and system solutions underlined the company’s innovation leadership in direct comparison with its competitors.

Dieter Manz, Manz Automation AG’s CEO, drew a positive balance: “We are still the world’s leading technology provider for the photovoltaic sector – and the Hamburg trade fair showed this once again. We proved our position as an industry innovation driver yet again by presenting three new thin-film and three new crystalline products.” In particular, Dieter Manz highlighted the advantages this equipment offers solar-sector manufacturers: “Using our machines allows major increases in efficiency to be achieved for both technologies. In particular given the current market, state-of-the-art – and thus cost-efficient – product lines are a key competitive advantage.” The focus was on new features that both increase the solar cells’ efficiency and can cut operating costs for solar cell manufacturers. The state-ofthe- art line for PSG etching for crystalline solar cells (cSi), for which the process technology was developed together with Fraunhofer ISE, yet again significantly decreases the breakage rates for wafers in the line. In addition, this line has been designed so that a significantly lower amount of chemicals are needed compared to competitors' equipment. That cuts the
ongoing costs for running the line. The new machine already allows throughput rates of more than 3,000 wafers/hour.

Manz Automation presented a particular highlight in the form of its Laser Multi Tool (cSi), which is also used for crystalline solar cells. This laboratory machine allows various laser processes for high-efficiency cells to be evaluated quickly and reliably, thus accelerating the development of new cell processes. Manz provided a live demonstration of a laser process to generate selective emitters at the trade fair. This process allows a 0.5 percentage point improvement in the efficiency of solar cells to be achieved. Many customers showed great interest in this process – which can also be retrofitted to existing lines. As a result, a significant increase in the profitability of older lines is achieved.

The Reutlingen-based engineering company also presented new equipment for thin-film technology (tfs), in particular new features for laser scribing. An innovative control system allows significantly greater precision in the process, which generates an increase in the solar modules’ efficiency. Manz is currently the only provider to offer this solution, and is thus confident that it will be able to further increase its leading position on the market for laser scribing equipment in future.

The company has succeeded in making key progress with yet another first – its system solution to laser-cut glass substrates. In addition to the utmost in precision, an increase in process speed and the lowest breakage rates, laser-cut substrates are significantly more stable than their predecessors, which were produced using mechanical processes. This is due to the avoidance of micro cracks at the cut edges. The increased stability makes a major contribution to reduce the failure rates from breakages in installed solar modules.

In addition, Manz also presented new equipment for TCO texturing (tfs). This roughens the glass substrates by etching them, thus increasing the surface area of the solar module. As a result, efficiency is improved. In developing this line, Manz again benefited from its expertise in and synergies with the LCD sector. These new technical milestones underscore the company’s technology leadership for production equipment for thin-film solar modules.

Another trend which is accelerating in dynamism is the niche market for building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV). Here too, Manz is able to fulfill manufacturers’ requirements in the thinfilm sector with its system solutions. Manz Automation has acquired a new customer in this segment – Malibu GmbH & Co. KG. This company stems from a joint venture between E.ON and Schüco.

Moreover, another key customer has ordered a line to automate the loading of thin-film substrates.

Furthermore, customers are asking, in particular, for solutions to make their existing equipment more competitive for the next few months. Manz is thus adapting to the market’s current requirements and is offering its customers the possibility of exchanging individual machines within a production line, or to expand their lines. This allows production costs to be cut and the efficiency of the solar cells and modules produced to be increased. These upgrades cost between EUR 1.5 and EUR 3.0 million, and give solar-sector manufacturers the latitude they need for a transitional period.

Dieter Manz also stated that in future the company will continue the course it has taken to date. It will further enhance its research activities this year. “We have made in-depth preparations for the next wave of investments. Our engineers have set new standards in developing highly-efficient and highly-integrated machines,” commented the CEO, explaining the progress that Manz has made. “This means that we have laid the technology foundations required to further increase our position on the market."

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