Centrotherm posts solid start to 2014

Germany’s Centrotherm Photovoltaics AG has this week revealed that the company has received orders totaling in excess of €30 million ($41 million) from leading solar cell manufacturers in the past two months.

The rising order intake since December is part of a wider €62 million ($84 million) order book in the single equipment market, and marks an impressive turnaround for a company that was facing insolvency procedures this time last year.

According to Centrotherm, the heightened demand for its manufacturing tools has stemmed from Asia, and notably Taiwanese factories that have begun running at full production capacity in order to satisfy the demand for high-efficiency cells emanating from the U.S. and Japan.

"Our customers in Asia have begun full utilization of their product lines over the course of the last few months, and have started to invest in new capacities and new lines, which has had a positive impact on Centrotherm’s orders," the company’s manager for public and investor relations, Nathalie Albrecht, told pv magazine. "This is due to stronger demand from Japan and the U.S. for high-efficiency modules; demand that is stronger that it has been for some time."

Centrotherm’s diffusion, anti-reflective coating (PECVD) products have led the surge, alongside its conveyor furnaces that are used for firing and sintering metal contacts during the production of high-efficiency cells.

Maintaining demand

Albrecht revealed to pv magazine that Centrotherm also anticipates heightened demand for the company’s low pressure diffusion furnaces following the adoption of this technology at a 800 MW production line at a plant in Southeast Asia. "Demand for low pressure diffusion furnaces is growing because all of our customers are under pressure to lower the cost of ownership and increase the quality of their output. The move towards higher efficiency cells is a good opportunity for centrotherm."

The low pressure diffusion process delivers improved emitter formation and enables the reproduction of more than 100 ?/square, as well as a significant increase in wafer throughput. Such efficiencies enable cost reduction per solar cell compared to the standard diffusion process.

In Centrotherm’s semiconductor and microelectronics business unit, the company is currently sitting on an order book of approximately $20 million, with an aim to expand this segment of the business by, according to Albrecht, "introducing some new products into the market aimed at semiconductor device makers that are keen to invest in new mass production capabilities."

Having experienced a sharp upturn in fortunes in the last 12 months, Albrecht revealed to pv magazine that the company was not intent to rest on its laurels. It is eyeing further growth in the PV industry, and has also cast its net wider in search of a broader client base.

"One key aspect of our restructuring process has been to focus not just on PV but also corporate competencies so that the company is not so dependent on one market," Albrecht said. "We have noted rising demand for end-market products and have increased our focus on R&D because we do not anticipate that there will be such extreme demand for massive investment in production capacities.

"The market for Centrotherm in Asia is strong, and is growing worldwide as demand increases for reliable, high-tech products, which has always been Centrotherm’s main focus."