Suppliers across the thin film PV value chain form the backbone of the industry and have been key to technological advances and successes. From raw material production to providing manufacturing tools, equipment and balance of system (BOS) components, thin film PV suppliers contribute to the continuous and automated production process and help drive down capital costs, increase throughput and improve module efficiencies and reliability.
Grenzebach manages the entire process of fully automating solar production plants – from factory simulation to installation and commissioning. The company’s expertise lies in the highly precise and gentle treatment of sensitive substrates. This concept also applies to fully automated solutions for the mirrors used in solar-thermal power plants (CSP) and concentrator module manufacturing (CPV). Grenzebach specializes in applications featuring precise and delicate joining with ac-curacies down to 20 µm, contact-free handling and advanced inspection systems. ISO 5 clean environment, SEMI and UL are standard at Grenzebach. Worldwide, more than 40 Grenzebach thin film lines have been installed for CIGS and CdTe technologies. The portfolio ranges from conveyance and buffering technology to in-house developed MES systems.
- Front end
The front end of the line produces the substrate. In addition to tracking the substrate ID, the temperature and cleanroom parameters are monitored. The state-of-the-art inspection systems ensure a high-quality standard. Storage systems for interim buffering at the coating and structuring processes in-crease the overall throughput through the front end.
- Back end
In the back end of line, the module is produced from the individual substrates. Laser edge deletion, film unwinding, pairing, film trimming and J-Box installation are key processes of our back end. Tailored back rail applications, as well as packaging and warehouse systems, complete the back end product range.
To support the high volume production of any of the present thin film PV technologies Grenzebach supplies large area sputter deposition tools. The main targeted product technologies are back- and front contact coatings including various metal, transparent conductive oxides (TCO – e.g. AZO, ITO, GZO) and absorber layers for e.g. CIGS and CdTe manufacturing lines. All deposition tools employ PVD coating technologies (physical vapour deposition) and are tailored according to our customer needs. The combination of a tailor-made solution based on industrial proven high volume production tools assures utmost high yield and quality of the coating line.
Grenzebach Maschinenbau GmbH was founded in 1920 as a family-owned agricultural machine repair shop located in the small village of Hamlar, Germany. In the 1970s, Grenzebach developed the world’s first processing systems to fully automate the float glass production process and went on to become the world’s leading production line automation specialist. Today, Grenzebach is a global company with 1,500 employees and seven production lines across three continents.
VON ARDENNE is an industry-leading coating equipment manufacturer based in Dresden, Germany. The company supplies highly productive inline coaters in all customary sizes for TCO layers, backside contacts and semiconductor layers based on CIS or CdTe. VON ARDENNE’s high-speed coating and deposition equipment has played a crucial role in enabling the thin-film PV industry to grow rapidly. VON ARDENNE’s magnetron sputtering technology enables the even and precise deposition of semiconductor materials onto sheets of glass or other large-area substrates and ensures both a high manufacturing throughput at optimized costs and consistently high quality.
VON ARDENNE’s magnetron sputtering technology “sputters” the coating material (known as the target) by bombarding it with positive gas ions in a medium vacuum. The coating material particles evenly condense onto the substrate as a continuous thin film.
VON ARDENNE GmbH was founded in 1991 as a spin-off company of the former Dresden-based Manfred von Ardenne Research Institute. Manfred von Ardenne was a German physicist who developed the world’s first fully electronic television in 1930. Since its inception, von Ardenne’s Research Institute focused on practical research and development projects that could make the biggest economic impact and be directly applied to the production line. VON ARDENNE GmbH carried the institute’s technological principles to the manufacturing line where it develops and manufactures industrial equipment for vacuum coatings on substrates such as glass, wafers, metal strip and polymer films. Today, VON ARDENNE is the leading provider of glass coating systems and equipment for thin-film PV, with more than 650 employees worldwide.
LPKF is a German manufacturer of thin film PV laser and mechanical structuring tools. LPKF’s high precision high speed laser scribing technology enables cost-effective industrial-scale thin film PV production. During manufacturing, laser scribes are used to monolithically interconnect the individual solar cells and improve the efficiency of thin film PV modules through better area utilization and minimal area losses. LPKF’s laser scriber enables parallel lasers to simultaneously deliver multiple structures, allowing for maximum manufacturing throughput and low production costs.
LPKF Laser & Electronics AG was founded in 1976 in Garbsen, Germany. LPKF originally began developing and manufacturing precision machines and technologies for the production of circuit board prototypes. Today, LPKF is one of the world’s leading companies in laser micromaterial processing and its laser systems are used in the electronics and automobile industries, medical and plastics technology and in the production of thin film solar cells. LPKF operates globally with approximately 780 employees.
5N Plus is a Canadian producer of high-purity metals and compounds for electronics including thin film PV applications. The company is a leading supplier of cadmium telluride (CdTe) as well as gallium, indium, selenium and related compounds which are critical components of thin film PV technologies. 5N Plus also offers recycling services for the recovery of various metals from industrial byproducts and concentrates for sustainable use in CdTe and CIGS PV modules.
5N Plus derives its name from the purity of its products which are more than 99.999 % pure (5 nines or 5N+). 5N Plus was founded in Montréal, Canada in 2000 by former-ANRAD Corporation (formerly Noranda Advanced Materials) employees led by Jacques L’Écuyer who decided to start their own company through a management buy-out of certain assets. In 2007, 5N Plus began constructing a manufacturing facility in Eisenhüttenstadt, Germany, ideally suited for the production and recycling of products for the solar industry. Today, 5N Plus is a leading producer of specialty metal and chemical products for the thin film PV industry. The company employs nearly 700 people worldwide and operates manufacturing facilities and sales offices across Europe, the Americas and Asia.