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Applied Materials Introduces the Most Advanced Fully Automated Wafer Inspection System for Solar Manufacturing

  • World-class photoluminescence and 100% automated inspection technologies predict final wafer efficiency and improve production yield and savings
  • Integrates most advanced inspection capabilities, providing  industry’s highest review accuracy of wafer quality

SHANGHAI, May 20, 2014 – At the SNEC 8th International Photovoltaic Power Generation Conference & Exhibition held this week in Shanghai, Applied Materials, Inc. today announced the Applied Vericell™ Solar Wafer Inspection System that introduces new capabilities to reduce factory production costs and improve overall average yield of high efficiency solar cell production. These new capabilities include 100 percent in-line wafer inspection to address the quality limitations of manual review, and to automatically predict wafer cell efficiency through photoluminescence (PL) technology, enabling customers to process only wafers that meet quality and yield specifications for higher profitability.

“The Vericell system enables real time yield optimization,” said Jim Mullin, vice president and general manager of Solar Products for Applied Materials’ Energy and Environmental Solutions Group.  “Our customers can now cost-effectively track incoming and outgoing wafer quality and adjust manufacturing processes to improve yield and binning.  As the PV industry keeps pace with the “efficiency clock” and transitions to more advanced cells, controlling manufacturing yield becomes a high value problem.  The Vericell system has proven its value in predicting yield and increasing profitability in manufacturing at several customer sites.”

Using state-of-the-art PL technology combined with multiple sensing capability and advanced software algorithms, the Vericell system can predict final cell efficiency from bare wafer material with a mean average prediction error of less than 0.15% on multi-crystalline silicon wafers. Removing low-efficiency wafers and identifying those that require process modifications provides overall improvement in a factory’s output of higher efficiency cells, which can significantly improve profitability.  While PL technology has been used for inspection, the automation capabilities of the Vericell tool enable its predictive accuracy and easy integration into existing production lines for immediate benefits.

The Vericell system’s multiple integrated inspection modules automatically evaluate each wafer to find and eliminate defective wafers from production. It measures and reports on a range of parameters including wafer thickness, thickness variations, warp and resistivity. The system also detects defects including saw marks, chipped edges, stains, and micro-cracks. By controlling quality and minimizing the risk and costs of wafer breakage from manual inspection, the Vericell tool can provide customers significant gain in factory production.

The Vericell system is available with Applied’s proprietary yield management software that can be utilized to collect, consolidate and analyze real-time data. This software allows customers to quickly identify and act on yield-impacting events to optimize their entire manufacturing line. 

Applied Materials, Inc. (Nasdaq:AMAT) is the global leader in providing innovative equipment, services and software to enable the manufacture of advanced semiconductor, flat panel display and solar photovoltaic products. Our technologies help make innovations like smartphones, flat screen TVs and solar panels more affordable and accessible to consumers and businesses around the world. Learn more at www.appliedmaterials.com.

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Contact:
Connie Duncan (editorial/media) 408.563.6209
Michael Sullivan (financial community) 408.986.7977

May 20, 2014