Analyst: AMAT customer ramp “so far, so good”

June 16, 2008 – FBR Research analysts say after the launch of Signet Solar’s 60MW pilot plant (three lines) in Mocau, Germany, was a welcomed fast rollout for supplier Applied Materials after some glitches with a previous customer install, and although bottlenecks are identified there appear to be solutions at work.

Capex for the three pilot lines, incorporating AMAT’s a-Si thin-film equipment, is expected to decline from $3.00-$3.50/W to $2/W as capacity is scaled to 140MW in 2010, note analysts Mehdi Hosseini and Rafi Hassan in a research note. Signet already has 400MW in sales contracts and another 500MW in the pipeline; main targets include installers in the US and Europe (Germany, Spain). Meanwhile, another AMAT solar customer, Moser Baer, has signed a deal with Colexon for ≥130MW, suggesting more confidence in the technology, and a positive mark for AMAT (and negative for First Solar).

The rollout at Signet was faster than anticipated (vs. “numerous Moser Baer glitches,” the analysts note), helped by Signet’s experience in semiconductors, and the firm expects to expand in India next year, with plans on the board for a plant in the US in the future.

AMAT’s CVD equipment is a “bottleneck to the existing throughput of 20 glass sheets/hour/line,” the analysts claim. Raising the deposition rate can extend the throughput rate but efficiency suffers, but Signet claims to “have a few knobs to increase this manufacturing output,” likely sometime in 2009. The firm also is building in-house chemical and gas supplies, including an Air Products silane gas production line, and a local gas supplier should help lower inventories and thus costs, they note.


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