Future sunny for Roth & Rau

The fortunes of German solar equipment engineering group Roth & Rau appear to be improving.

While the company has suffered annual losses for the past three years, CEO Peter Frankfurter has said the solar market is showing signs of recovery, which is expected to lead to an increase in production for the group.

Located in the hilly Saxon town of Hohenstein-Ernsttha, Roth & Rau is the main coating technologies unit of Swiss production equipment manufacturer Meyer Burger. The company is set to become Meyer Burger’s second main production site after its own domestic facility in the Swiss city of Thun, according to the German newspaper Freie Presse.

A relocation of production operations from other sites has resulted in 60 new jobs at Roth & Rau, bringing its total number of employees to about 420 – the same amount of workers the company had before the crisis that hit Germany’s solar sector three years ago.

The solar crisis that began in 2011 reached its peak last year, Frankfurter said, quoted by the Freie Presse. While orders at Roth & Rau declined by around 24% last year to some €79 million ($108 million), the company received orders of some €36 million in the fourth quarter – and the positive trend continued through January, he added.

At the end of 2013, Roth & Rau unveiled new plants for the production of high-efficiency cells and received a first order of more than €12 million.

"Our Hetero Junction Technology allows efficiencies of more than 22%," Frankfurter said.

Roth & Rau’s Hetero Junction Technology combines the advantages of crystalline silicon solar cells with the absorption and passivation characteristics of amorphous silicon used in thin film technology.

The company is looking to further increase the efficiency of solar cells while at the same time reducing the costs of production, Frankfurter said. Roth & Rau currently has around 50 employees working in a development department towards that end.

The company is also planning to increase its focus on "specialized technologies," specifically in the area of micro systems, including plasma and ion beam assisted surface processing methods for the semiconductor and optical industries. Roth & Rau already has a development lab devoted to the technology.

At the end of last year the company invested €1.5 million in a 700-square-meter cleanroom for the assembly of high-tech equipment.