Analyst: R2R, printable inks lead higher-growth segments for thin-film solar cell manufacturing

March 30, 2007 – Adoption of thin-film technology by solar cell manufacturers seeking an alternative to scarce and expensive polysilicon opens up new growth opportunities for production equipment suppliers, notes analyst firm The Information Network in a new report.

The total market for commercial solar-cell production equipment is projected to nearly triple in size between now and 2010, from $1.2 billion in 2006 to $4.5 billion, notes analyst Robert Castellano. That includes equipment for coating, etching, diffusion, and cleaning, as well as SiN, back reflectors, and contacts (for crystalline silicon) and transparent conductive oxide, deposition, contacts, and automation tools (for thin films).

But the market for those types of equipment targets materials that are projected to grow the slowest, namely crystalline and amorphous silicon, he points out — each is projected to achieve compound annual growth rates of ~40% between 2006-2010. Instead, the real growth in solar cell manufacturing will be for equipment that supports newer thin film technologies such as cadmium telluride (CdTe, +75% CAGR) and copper-indium-gallium-selenide (CIGS, +200% CAGR), and even GaAs films (~120%). In these areas, innovative processes such as roll-to-roll manufacturing and printable CIGS inks will take center stage instead of sputtering and chemical vapor deposition, he said.


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