As well as the company's compact PVP1200 printer, the DEK stand featured handlers, flippers and buffers on a single lane demonstration system � alongside a fascinating new dual-lane implementation never before seen in public. The dual lane system essentially doubles line throughput without doubling capital equipment investment.
It was clear from the exhibition outset that DEK's innovative PV1200 systems break the mold for equipment in this market sector. A very high level of interest was shown by visitors and other exhibitors � not least of which was apparently due to DEK being the only company using real 150 micron silicon wafers in its dry-cycling demonstrations on both its exhibits. A set of multicrystalline wafers spent the week transiting the single lane PV1200, clocking up more than 5,000 cycles; while a pair of monocrystalline substrates constantly traversed up and down the dual lane system for the four days of the event � a total of over 17,000 cycles without a single breakage.
�We did break one multicrystalline cell during a demonstration,� admits Darren brown, Alternative Energy Development Manager at DEK. �But that was because we ped it while loading it into the feeder cassette! These 150 micron substrates permit the silicon suppliers to cut more cells from an ingot but they are very brittle,� he explains.
The handing characteristics of the PV1200 system are paramount in minimizing breakages during metallization. The proprietary transport mechanisms never grip the fragile cell by its edges, nor exert more force on the cell than its own mass, even during flipping, buffering and unloading into the 42-bay cassettes.
Of equal intrigue was the exceptionally compact dimensions and tiny footprint of the highly modular PV1200 � a form factor that belies its 1200 cells-per-hour throughput, 6-Sigma process rating, 12.5 micron resolution, and exemplary handling capabilities. The system is also easy to observe and monitor, featuring fully transparent covers, a touch screen interface and a workspace at waist height.
Visitors from Europe, Asia and the Americas expressed delight and competitors exasperation at the performance, competence and overall attractive appearance of the PV1200. Few realized that DEK is a $250 million global business (part of the $4bn Dover Group NYSE: DOV) and a clear technology leader with a dominant market share in the screen printing sector for electronics circuit board assembly. As such, it's no surprise to those in the know that the design of the PV1200 is based upon DEK's 40 years of experience of developing mass imaging platform products used in the thick film, chip-scale semiconductor and surface mount electronics markets.
�In these sectors, factory floor space is a valuable commodity that cannot be squandered by needlessly large pieces of production equipment, and the new generation of solar cell manufacturers face the same commercial challenge,� explains John Knowles, DEK's Chairman, who is personally heading up the company's Solar Cell process initiatives. �We understand these needs intimately as we were delivering solar metallization lines in the early 1980s and continued to develop a large installed base of our first generation machines, mostly in China and Asia, through DEK Japan. The PV 1200 simply continues the long association DEK has with the Solar industry� he adds.
Another factor that drives the manufacturing life cycle in related industries is Time-To-Market. While the solar cell sector is used to equipment lead times measured in many months, DEK is able to bring its world-class lean-manufacturing expertise to bear and will supply PV1200 systems in a matter of weeks from order. �With the photovoltaic sector booming and the demand for sustainable alternative energies escalating, we can help manufacturers respond quickly and fast-track their way to efficient commercial solar cell production,� claims Brown.
Adding to its compelling credibility, DEK also boasts a global infrastructure of support resources, spares hubs, applications expertise and field service technicians strategically positioned around the world, as well as Class 10,000 clean room manufacturing facilities for the precision emulsion screens critical to the metallization process.
About DEK Solar
DEK is a global provider of next-generation technologies and process support to solar cell manufacturers with solutions that include modular metallization platforms, precision screens and materials applications used in back side field coating, current-collector pattern and termination deposition for photovoltaic substrate production. For more information, visit DEK Solar at http://www.deksolar.com.