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DEK: One-stop Metallization Solution

DEK is one of the established global suppliers of state-of-the-art solutions for commercial solar cell manufacture. As a world-leading authority in the field of screen printing, it has played an active role in solar cell development since the 1970s. Its comprehensive, one-stop metallization solution delivers a clear cost, quality and repeatability advantage for customers around the world. Plus, the lean manufacturing expertise and global infrastructure provides customers with dramatically shorter lead times--a major advantage in the quest for grid parity. InterPV Editor Sarah Jeong talked with Daniel Chang, Alternative Energy Project Manager of DEK China, on its innovative metallization technology and thoughts on the solar industry.

 

Daniel Chang, Alternative Energy Project Manager of DEK China

 

By Sarah Jeong (pved1@infothe.com)

 

 

Through the whole process of solar cell development since the 1970s, which area have you specially stressed on?

 

We were at the forefront of solar cell manufacture in the late 1970s, delivering systems to customers in India, Taiwan and China. Our thick film expertise was later transferred to DEK Japan, where equipment development and process refinement continued. Naturally, as a screen printing specialist, we know that screen printing is the optimum process to deliver metallization. As the process of choice for all progressive solar cell producers, we’re always been focused on delivering robust solutions to drive the industry further and further towards efficient commercial production.

In 2007, we officially launched DEK Solar, drawing on our established expertise in the field to offer the industry a truly unique proposition. This development saw the dawn of a new range of advanced PV cell manufacturing solutions to accommodate the demanding needs of the industry going forward. Based on our multi-award winning SMT platform philosophy, the birth of the PV1200 photovoltaic metallization line introduced the industry to proven print accuracy, dramatically faster processing speeds, a much smaller footprint, intrinsic modularity, lead times of weeks rather than months and comprehensive global support. Most recently, we launched the PV3000, an extremely high throughput metallization solution delivering six-sigma repeatability for capability in advance of current solar cell requirements.

 

Please update our readers on your recent technical innovations.

 

Most recently, we have collaborated with oven technology specialist Heller Industries to enhance our state-of-the-art PV3000 metallization line even further. This has enabled a significant breakthrough in solar cell production, incorporating precise thermal control, improved waste management and reduced power consumption. The PV3000 platform now benefits from Heller’s experience in the field through the recent addition of a solar cell dryer equipped to handle increased product throughput over a reduced footprint and with reduced maintenance. Offering a significant advantage over conventional IR-based dryers, the PV3000’s drying technology creates improved air exchange within the process chamber which enables the dryer to manage the increased VOC volume associated with raised throughput. In addition, the catalyst material in the process chamber converts the VOCs to simpler compounds such as carbon dioxide and water. The by-product of the catalyst conversion is heat which, in turn, is used to power the drying process and reduce overall power consumption.

 

Please share more details about your comprehensive metallization solution with our readers.

 

The PV3000 is a complete photovoltaic metallization solution featuring a high level of accuracy and repeatability which makes it ideal for demanding techniques such as Print-on-Print (PoP). Indeed, with advanced processes such as this fast-becoming industry standard, the PV3000 achieves PoP capability to ±12.5 microns at 2 Cpk. The PV3000 deploys patented multiple print heads operating in parallel; if one head halts for operator attention, the others continue to print--virtually eliminating downtime--and features dedicated handling for thin wafers to ensure low breakage rates for maximum yield, as well as high-speed machine vision for perfect alignment. With print speeds up to 600 mm/sec, the PV3000 guarantees exceptional output while unprecedented handling minimizes breakages.

 

China has received intense global attention with its rapid growth. What do you think is its unique strength compared to other countries? And how do you see Chinese role in the global PV market?

 

China has indeed attracted much attention for its soaring growth rates and deservedly so when you consider that by 2015, it’s expected to represent the number one market for the solar. The emergence of such a huge market for renewable energy in China is luring global manufacturers and research teams to the region, a trend which is set to continue as the opportunities become even more lucrative into the future. The Chinese government has recognized the importance of renewable energy industry and has set a national target of generating 15% of its energy capacity from renewable resources by 2020. China spends around $9 bn a month on clean energy development: executing its green policy quickly by engaging the handful of state-owned utilities. Not bound by rules and regulations in this respect such as other powers like the U.S., there’s no doubt that China’s role in the global PV market will be extremely important.

 

Many experts anticipate fierce competition in the solar industry resulting from the oversupply and low cell prices. What are your efforts to raise your competitiveness in the global market?

 

As many manufacturers are discovering, DEK Solar is already extremely competitive in the global market--delivering unprecedented short lead times, high functionality, global service and support and the most compact footprint around. However, we’re always working to help our customers expect more, which means continual innovation to enhance the technologies we deliver and the service our customers receive.

 

DEK has global support infrastructure in China, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S.A. What is your plan to expand in the future?

 

Here at DEK Solar, we’re always gone where demand takes us. Our global infrastructure is continually evolving in line with our customers’ requirements and we’re committed to extending our footprint around the world. Our extensive global logistics and applications support network which offers leading-edge resources. We’re also firm believers in being guided by talented people with local knowledge, so have built an extensive network of regional support teams. Assuring close personal attention backed up by the full strength of our worldwide resources, our regional teams are made up of some of the brightest and most talented individuals in today’s solar industry. By empowering our staffs and providing them with the best opportunities in the industry, we continually develop our global knowledge base.

 

What is your goal in 2010?

 

To help our customers continue to expect more. We’ll continue our quest to help the industry reach grid parity by continuing our R&D efforts and innovation commitment. For example, we’re conducting an ongoing project into generating optimal commercial efficiency on a single printer. Our Senior Process Development Specialist, Tom Falcon, recently presented a white paper detailing the latest improvements we’re made in terms of aspect ratios for printed front side conductors on silicon solar cells at EU PVSEC. We’re used the results of this analysis along with an investigation into emerging screen technologies to design, develop and test a new screen/stencil hybrid technology targeting improved cell efficiency for lower cost production. We’ll be developing this--long with many other exciting initiatives--through 2010 and beyond.

 

Lastly, what is your forecast for the global solar industry in 2010?

 

From our own experience, we know that the industry will continue to grow--a trend which will only accelerate in line with rising market confidence. I also think that we’ll see an increase in demand for more advanced processes such as print-on-print for example, with an emphasis on driving down cost-per-watt even further as the industry as a whole becomes more competitive. Government incentives in the U.S., Europe and China will further stimulate demand for solar installations worldwide. The future certainly looks bright!

 

 

Sarah Jeong is Editor of InterPV. Send your comments to pved1@infothe.com.

 

 

For more information, please send your e-mails to pved@infothe.com.

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