Growth in LED demand—driven by broad adoption of general lighting applications—is expected to come at a fast, furious and sustained pace which analysts predict may last for a few years before the market once again pauses.
The way I see it, the current lull in LED market growth actually may be a great opportunity for LED manufacturers: Those who invest in productivity improvements now, while there is still the luxury of time, could potentially benefit significantly and outpace their competitors during the next high growth cycles.
InterSolar Europe, the industry’s largest tradeshow was held in Munich, Germany last week. With more than 2,200 exhibitors and more than 75,000visitors, one of the most important industry shows took place at an important inflection point in the industry.
This was Applied Materials’ fourth year participating in InterSolar Europe and our theme this year, ‘Powering the c-Si Roadmap’ set the stage for the various activities that took place including equipment demos at the booth, executive presentations, a software symposium and customer meetings.
This is the last post in a series running this week looking at the interrelated building blocks that are key contributors to producing solar modules at a cost of less than US$1 per watt.
Advances in Automation
Many solar factories today operate with little or no tool or factory automation. Those which have automation on individual tools often use custom hardware and software which are expensive to create, acquire and install, and are labor-intensive to maintain. The solar industry is increasingly turning to well-known productivity methods from other high-volume manufacturing industries, including intelligent, affordable factory and process control software.
In his blog, James Moyne talked about Applied Materials’ software footprint as it relates to crystalline silicon (c-Si) solar production. James highlighted a specific scenario where advanced process control plays an important role in addressing issues associated with solar cell printing. As this type of technology becomes widely adopted, the c-Si solar industry will collectively improve processes and drive the quality and conversion efficiency of the product to new highs.
The LED manufacturing world has an interesting mix of semiconductor technology and c-Si manufacturing practices. This raises the question: can automation software be beneficial—and affordable—for LED production lines? The answer is YES, and I’ll begin to tell you why.
Micron Technology, Inc. announced today that it has started the deployment of the Applied Materials E3 framework within its 300mm fabrication facilities. Applied E3 is an integrated engineering system that allows sophisticated control strategies aimed at increasing product performance, raising product yield and improving quality.