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Another Major Blow for Thin Film Solar Technology

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Tokyo Electron exits Thin Film Solar business

Solar thin film technology suffered another big blow when Tokyo Electron decided to exit its a-Si thin film solar making equipment business, after it found very little demand for its products. Note c-Si technology has been making rapid advancements as Chinese companies drastically reduced the cost of the panels using scale and process manufacturing expertise. Tokyo Electron had bought these divisions from Oerlikon a couple of years ago to bolster its solar expertise. Note Applied Materials had also shelved its thin film solar equipment business, despite managing to win a number of customers initially. The global solar downturn as well as the growing size of the crystalline silicon technology solar panel players had made AMAT exit the business very early in 2009. AMAT which has now become the owner of Tokyo Electron might have played a big role in getting TE to shelve the thin film solar business.

Read all about Thin Film Technology here.

Thin film solar technology is facing hard times with most of the thin film players going bankrupt (Solyndra), while others have been sold for pathetic sums to Asian conglomerates (Miasole). As more and more R&D dollars are poured into crystalline silicon technology, thin film solar will have a tough time catching up with the mainstream technology. Only First Solar (FSLR) and Solar Frontier remain viable large players in the thin film technology industry. Note First Solar has also started to invest in crystalline silicon solar technology. While Solar Frontier is expanding, most of the growth is coming from its protected domestic market, which is currently seeing an epic boom due to generous feed in tariffs.

TE mentions that it is closing the business because of low demand in the industry, when ironically the industry is growing at high double digits due to strong demand from China and Japan.


Tokyo Electron Ltd. (8035), the chipmaking equipment supplier that agreed to be bought by Applied Materials Inc., will stop making and selling equipment used to make solar panels at the end of March.

The decision comes amid a weak business environment because of an oversupply of production equipment, Tokyo Electron said in a statement today. Tokyo Electron acquired Oerlikon Solar, the photovoltaics unit of Swiss industrial equipment maker OC Oerlikon Corp., in 2012 for an enterprise value of 250 million Swiss francs ($278 million).

“Amid uncertainties of a recovery in the market environment, we have decided to scale down our business structure,” the Tokyo-based company said in the statement. Support for units already delivered will continue.


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

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