VDMA’s latest statistics on the market for solar equipment show that strong investment earlier in the year led to a 117% increase in revenue for German equipment suppliers in the final three months of 2017.
The report states that, while the order books for German tool makers are still filled, and a book-to-bill ratio of 0.4% was achieved for the quarter, new orders for manufacturing equipment fell by 41% over Q3 2017.
“The so far high investment activity of the solar cell manufacturers in the expansion of existing and new production capacities is decreasing, the production is still busy, says managing director of RCT Solutions GmbH and Chairman of VDMA Photovoltaic Equipment, Peter Fath. “New orders came increasingly from PERC and Black Silicon equipment of the crystalline Silicon as well as from the thin film technology sector.”
The export ratio for German suppliers hit a new record of 93%, with 62% of orders bound for factories in China. The U.S. was the second largest customer, responsible for 18% of orders, while Germany was responsible for 7%.
As it had done for much of the year, thin film production equipment continued to punch above its weight in terms of orders – while thin film technologies represent less than 10% of the world market for solar modules, thin film machinery represented 53% of sales for the final quarter of 2017. Equipment for cell production took the second largest share, at 44%. Tools for polysilicon, ingot and wafer production represented 3% of sales.
While new order intake fell by 41% QonQ, VDMA remains optimistic about the future for German equipment suppliers, noting that the Q4 2017 figure still represents 9% growth over the same period in 2016.
“The order books are still filled. Future expansion plans of the PV industry in China give reason to hope for continuous contract awards in the coming years,” says Jutta Trube, division manager of VDMA Photovoltaic Equipment. “Especially the high proportion of equipment for production of thin-film modules shows that German production equipment is in demand.”