From Semiconductor International:
Applied Materials executives said they expect a sharp drop in orders for equipment making flat panel displays over the next few quarters, even as the company's Pivot system goes into use for the large display substrates. On the plus side: Silicon equipment is set to rebound, and solar equipment revenues are beginning to ramp.
...Revenues doubled in the energy and environment systems division, which includes solar equipment aimed at both crystalline silicon and thin-film photovoltaics (PV). Four customers are producing solar panels from the 5.7 m2 glass substrates used at Applied’s turnkey SunFab lines, and a total of eight SunFab lines are in various stages of construction.
Applied has developed the ability to process silicon wafers measuring just 120 µm thick, which is 60% thinner than conventional solar-use wafers. The goal is to use fewer grams of silicon per watt of electrical power, Splinter said.
Many customers are still learning how to assemble solar panels from the 5.7 m2 glass substrates, leaving some to cut the large panels into one-fourth or one-half. “People have to get used to installing the bigger panels. That will take time, but we expect a pretty dramatic increase. Companies will go from one-fourth to full-size panels as their handling techniques catch up,” Splinter said.
By 2010, Applied expects thin-film PV technologies to catch up with the prevailing crystalline silicon approach. Applied also expects to see 25-30% operating margins from thin-film equipment sales by then. “Thin film will close the gap [in revenues] with crystalline silicon. That will happen in the next few quarters,” Davis said.