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Solar Production Technology
Mechanical engineers under pressure
The falling demand for solar modules and emerging equipment manufacturers in Asia is making life difficult for German photovoltaic suppliers nowadays. In order to confidently maintain their leading position in this market, they want to collaborate more closely with solar cell manufacturers. Nevertheless, they seem reluctant.
Photo gallery to the topic Mechanical engineers under pressure
Lots to doshow photos
Centrotherm's order books remain full. Indeed, this could be soon to change in light of the falling demand for modules and growing competition (Photo: Centrotherm)
Key technologyshow photos
What are the current production times for silicon wafers and cells? This question is particularly important for cost-effective manufacturing. Mechanical engineers in Germany envisage even greater development potential regarding their equipment. (Photo: Q-Cells)
High-tech lineshow photos
Up until now, Q-Cells has designed their own production lines for solar cells. German equipment manufacturers hope to take over this role in the near future. (Photo: Q-Cells)
Time for discussionshow photos
German mechanical engineers are keen to pursue closer cooperation with domestic manufacturers. They can be found attending the Solarpeq and Glasstec trade fairs, both running from 23 October to 26 October 2012. (Photo: Messe Düsseldorf)
In 2010, German solar mechanical engineers, which by now number around 12,000 employees, exported more than 80% of their equipment abroad. Although that sounds like a positive report, the mood of manufacturers of solar production equipment is somewhat subdued due to plummeting orders, explains the Verband Deutscher Maschinen- und Anlagenbau [VDMA - German Engineering Federation]. The problem is not just the general slump in demand. A comparison between VDMA figures and a current market analysis conducted by the international semi-conductor association Semi suggests that competition from China and the USA is increasingly cutting into the market shares of German suppliers.
"This situation has in fact become a reality," states Eric Maiser, manager of VDMA's photovoltaic production equipment. "Chinese mechanical engineers now supply equipment for the majority of process steps involved in manufacturing solar cells." Up until now, German suppliers had a firm grip on the market for solar machines. Their remit is clear, says Maiser: "We must always remain innovative." Semi-conductor experts envisage great potential for development when it comes to solar machines. These machines do not yet reach the same levels of efficiency as equipment in the related semi-conductor industry, indicates SEMI manager Carlos Lee. To speed up processes, machines could be built in such a way that the silicon disks do not have to be moved from one carrier to another so frequently.