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Solar Equipment domination by the European companies continues with litte churn in top 10 rankings

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While European solar module producers have seen their marketshare and revenues crumbling in the face of the Chinese onslaught , there domination of the solar equipment continues.Despite semi equipment giant Applied Materials maintaining its top position in the Top 10 rankings released by VLSI the other ranks are dominated by European players mostly from Germany.

Germany has certainly gained due to is generous solar subsidies to become the hotbed of solar equipment innovation.Companies like Centrotherm,Roth&Rau have maintained their technological edge which allows them to maintain their marketshare despite shifts in the market position of its customers.Unlike solar module production,equipment for making these modules is not as easily duplicated allowing these companies to maintain high margins and revenues.

Thin Film Equipment Losing Out

The Top 2 Thin Film Equipment makers Applied Materials and Oerlikon have suffered due to more than 50% reduction in prices of crystalline silicon modules making the amorphous silicon modules uncompetetive.Orders for thin film equipment has almost evaporated as customers find them no longer economically feasible.

Applied Materials is close to cutting funding to its much touted SunFab turneky solution while Oerlikon Solar also said that orders in the first quarter for 2010 have almost disappeared.

Applied Materials sees strong earnings, posts record c-Si PV bookings, but SunFab unit takes big hit – PV Tech

Splinter called “decisive steps to realign the business with a lower market outlook,” Splinter said.

“The second quarter [for thin film] was very difficult in respects,” he explained in a prepared statement during the call. “A large customer filed for insolvency, a major new customer failed to secure financing, and several other customers experienced weaker outlooks and reduced their spending plans. These events have significantly reduced our thin-film solar revenue expectations for the year and lowered our demand forecast for new factories.

“As a result, our thin film performance for 2010 will be well below expectations, and we now expect that EES will not meet its goal to achieve breakeven for the year on a non-GAAP basis. We have viewed breakeven as an important milestone for EES that would contribute a substantial improvement to our company’s profitability,” he continued.

Applied Materials still top PV manufacturing equipment supplier in 2009, says VLSI Research – DigiTimes

Four of the top 10 suppliers retained their positions and nine of the companies in last year’s list make a repeat appearance, revealing that the top players have mostly managed to retain market share. The market for PV manufacturing equipment which includes polysilicon, ingot, wafering, cell and module manufacturing equipment declined by 12.2% in 2009 to a value of US$7.7 billion.VLSI Research’s analysis reveals that Applied Materials consolidated their position in 2009 with organic growth and revenue gain from their existing products. Centrotherm Photovoltaics AG gained the most positions and climbed from fifth place to claim the second spot, benefiting from their move into the polysilicon and ingot manufacturing equipment markets.

Compared to other industries the fall in revenue during the downturn was not too severe but 2009 was a year of two halves: for the first eight months suppliers survived by working through their backlogs as new orders virtually evaporated, then for the remainder of the year orders surged close to record levels. The stress this caused resulted in some suppliers exiting the market and accelerated the trend for consolidation within the industry. Most notably, Meyer Burger and 3S Swiss Solar Systems merged while Roth and Rau acquired OTB, although both these events occurred too late to impact the 2009 rankings.

The outlook for 2010 is for new equipment orders to remain strong and sales to grow by 17.2% to a value of US$9 billion. However, not all segments are expected to grow next year. In particular, demand for silicon thin film on glass equipment is likely to remain soft until the technology and competitive cost issues are solved.

VLSI Research: Top 10 suppliers of PV manufacturing equipment, 2009
Companies 2008 2009
Applied Materials 1 1
Centrotherm Photovoltaic AG 5 2
Gebr.Schmid 3 3
GT Solar Incorporated 4 4
Oerlikon Solar 2 5
Meyer Burger 6 6
Ulvac 8 7
Roth and Rau AG 7 8
ALD Vacuum Technologies 10 9
NPC Incorporated 12 10

Source: VLSI Research, compiled by Digitimes, May 2010


Sneha Shah

I am Sneha, the Editor-in-chief for the Blog. We would be glad to receive suggestions, inputs & comments on GWI from you guys to keep it going! You can contact me for consultancy/trade inquires by writing an email to

3 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. outsider

    One of my pet peeves is having a rank order list. Here Applied at #1 (revenues 1.1B) is compared against #10 NPC which has revenues of $100M. The rank order does not give a true picture.

    There should be another column beside the rankings that discusses the revenues and understand the % of the TAM for each of these top ranked company.

    From what I understand, Applied is at $1.1B and the #2 ranked Centrotherm is only at 0.6B. This is a similar delta as in year 2008 where the leadership of Applied was far higher than Oerlikon.

  2. Abhishek

    I agree that it would give a more accurate picture on how the companies are progressing.But the aim of this post was to show that the European equipment makers have fared much better than their module counterparts for which the rankings were sufficient.