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Semiconductor Industry News, Trends, and Technology, and SEMI Standards Updates

Long-Term Growth in the Photovoltaic (PV) Industry

Posted by Cimetrix on Apr 13, 2012 9:01:00 AM

by Rob Schreck
Marketing Manager

In March 2012, SEMI released a policy white paper that discusses the state of the photovoltaic (PV) solar industry in the United States and recommends actions the U.S. government should take to increase the manufacturing output and employment in the photovoltaic industry. The basis for the discussion is that the SEMI PV Group believes that solar is at the beginning of a long growth cycle.

Indeed, it is easy to understand the huge growth potential for solar. First, there is a rapid decline in the cost of generating solar power, as the paper explains (see Figure 1).

PV Decreasing Cost resized 600

Figure 1.

This cost decline is one factor in the rapid increase in demand forecasted by the International Energy Agency (see Figure 2).

 

PV Industry Growth Forecast
Figure 2.

Second, the U.S. and many other countries are seeking alternatives to petroleum as a primary energy source. As Bettina Weiss, executive director, SEMI Photovoltaics Business Unit, stated in the announcement of the white paper “Despite a significant contraction in the global PV market this year, solar is at the beginning of long-term growth cycle and will be a major contributor to energy independence and help the U.S. to break from its reliance on fossil fuels.”  

To download “Manufacturing Solar Photovoltaic Products in the U.S.” and see specific recommendations in the report, visit www.pvgroup.org/node/2046.

We at Cimetrix are seeing an increased interest in the PV2 standard. Companies want to know how they should use the interface standard as they develop new equipment for the solar industry. We have updated our Cimetrix Introduction to SEMI Standards: PV2 (PVECI) white paper to provide a tutorial for anyone who wants to know more about the standard. If you are interested, go to http://info.cimetrix.com/pv2-overview/.

Topics: PV Standards, PV2 Standard, PVECI

GEM 300 - All of This Chaos Makes Perfect Sense

Posted by Cimetrix on Jan 20, 2011 1:23:00 PM

by David Francis
Product Manager, Connectivity Products

Back in the 1990s, Joe Diffie released an album titled “Third Rock from the Sun.”  I have to admit I liked the title song, especially the chorus:

Cause and effect, chain of events
All of the chaos makes perfect sense
When you're spinning round
Things come undone
Welcome to Earth 3rd rock from the Sun.”

 Joe Diffie resized 600

At the time, I was working with Motorola in Austin developing host-side cell control applications for one of their new fabs.  Motorola had implemented some rudimentary equipment control and data collection in their older fabs, but the standards were loosely defined at that time and the equipment interfaces were inconsistent. We realized we could not replicate the work implemented in the old fabs into the new fabs, yet we did not have solid standards to use for the new fabs.  As the song said, we were “spinning round in this chaos.

What eventually drove more clarification in the GEM/GEM300 standards was the industry-wide push to move to fully automated 300mm IC manufacturing.  The larger wafers offer much greater productivity and throughput, with significantly lower cost per die, and SEMI wanted to ensure the industry had a well-understood and approved interface standard for the equipment used to manufacture semiconductors on these much larger wafers.  Those new standards made it easier and more cost effective to create the host-side cell control applications.  Now the chaos started to “make perfect sense.”

Embracing the GEM/GEM300 standards allowed IC manufacturers to purchase standard software components to analyze manufacturing processes and identify opportunities to increase productivity.  In other words, they wanted to bring order to all the chaos.  The alternative – developing their own data analysis applications for each fab – would have been very expensive and time consuming.  SEMI brought order to the scene by offering the GEM/GEM300 standards that all the equipment vendors and fabs could use.  Now OEMs could develop equipment needed for automated wafer processing with the confidence fabs could install the machines and link them to their networks.  Fabs could increase throughput and drive down cost per die, and, just as important, gather data necessary to increase manufacturing efficiencies even more.

Fast forward twenty years, and we see a very similar situation, this time caused by the impressive growth in Photovoltaic cell and LED manufacturing.  The fabs in those industries need more advanced equipment to increase throughput and drive down unit costs in order to meet demand.  However, up to this date, both sectors are reluctant to adopt the GEM standards.  They are concerned those standards may be too big and complex for their processes, which are simpler than the current state-of-the-art semiconductor fab processes.  Once again, we see the chaos that occurs with explosive growth and companies seeking a solution to bring order to their processes.

Since I’ve seen this story before - and heard the music played time and time again - I know that adopting communication standards will help PV and LED manufacturers continue their drive to reduce unit costs and drive demand.  The effort is underway in the PV sector with the PV2 standard.  The LED sector should also look to adopt existing standards, or do what the PV sector has done and develop their own standards.  Either way, we know that standards help all the “chaos make perfect sense.”

Topics: PV Standards, PV2 Standard, Semiconductor Industry, SEMI, GEM Interface

Solar Energy, A Win-Win

Posted by Cimetrix on Jun 22, 2010 7:49:00 AM

by Peggy Faulkner,
Assistant Controller

"Pessimists are usually right and optimists are usually wrong but all the great changes have been accomplished by optimists. So what am I? I guess I would call myself a sober optimist...If you are not sober about the scale of the challenge, then you are not paying attention. But if you are not an optimist, you have no chance of generating the kind of mass movement needed to achieve the needed scale."
— Thomas L. Friedman, “Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution—And How It Can Renew America”

Thomas Friedman, renowned New York Times columnist, author,Solar Energy and public speaker has been speaking and writing about the imperative need for American transition toward green energy for some time. His profound belief in superior American ingenuity and innovation, coupled with the rapidly growing world appetite for energy, is the potent recipe which should be directing our creative and practical energies toward a shift in US mentality that is not only good for our collective health, but also spells opportunity.

Photovoltaic production has been doubling every two years, increasing by an average of 48 percent each year since 2002, making it the world’s fastest-growing energy technology. The market research firm Gartner forecasts a 27% increase in semiconductor manufacturing in 2010, and a 35% increase in PV installations, even with the reduction of feed-in tariffs by the government in Germany, the world’s largest manufacturer of PV equipment.

Yet, as a developing industry, the PV arena has been evolving, and will continue to do so. Cimetrix has been involved in global efforts to define PV Standards through the PV-EIS Task Force since its inception in 2007. Standards were approved and published in June 2009, and Cimetrix engineers are uniquely qualified to understand and implement these standards as our PV customers adopt them.

All this bodes well for business, certainly in the short term. But another picture also emerges—one with cleaner air to breathe, fewer creatures futilely struggling to shed the oily coat imprisoning them, fewer distraught families hoping against dimming hope to see a loved one emerging from the mines, or watching fewer news images of the defeat and panic in the eyes of those who have lost their livelihood. Renewable energy sources can and will be a win-win for society and business alike. I, too, am an optimist. I know I’m on a winning team.

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Topics: PV Standards, PV2 Standard, Photovoltaic (PV)

Windmills, solar panels and the effect of feed in tariffs

Posted by Cimetrix on Apr 1, 2010 8:12:00 AM

Solar Panels in Germanyby Bob Reback,
President and CEO

I always enjoy meeting with customers. I may be a little “old school,” but the personal touch of sitting across the table from someone, having a cup of coffee and learning firsthand what they think of our products, our people and our services is always educational, and even more so when the news is not good, as that gives us the opportunity to learn and improve going forward. Of course, the non-verbal communication is often times more important than the words, and you just can’t get that over the phone.

Due to the downturn in economic conditions during late 2008 and early 2009, we limited all company paid travel. As president, I also set the example to use the telephone and web conferences for most customer interactions. As business conditions began to improve in late summer of 2009, we began to relax our travel constraints. This led me to take a business trip to Europe to meet with some of our semiconductor customers as well as a few of our new PV customers.

Being on the road visiting customers usually involves a very full schedule, and Cimetrix business trips are even more so. This business trip started off meeting with customers in The Netherlands and then we drove across Germany meeting with customers in a number of cities as we made our way to our final destination in the Munich area. As we drove across Germany and stopped in a number of cities and small towns, I was surprised to see quite a few modern, high tech windmills, but I was shocked at the solar panels. We saw solar panels on the roofs of commercial buildings, residential building, farms and just about any type of structure with a roof. We saw solar panels in cities, towns and the countryside as we drove by on the Autobahn.

The German government has been the world leader in promoting renewable energy. The German government implemented a program of “feed in” tariffs that provide subsidies for entities (people, businesses, etc.) to install solar panels. As it was explained to me, it is typical in Germany to purchase electricity at a rate of say $0.08 to $0.10 per kilowatt hour. The government feed-in tariff means that if someone installs solar panels on their roof, the German government will guarantee that it will purchase all of the electricity from your solar panels for the next 20 years at the price of $0.45 per kilowatt hour. (Note that the feed-in tariffs decline every year). Since you have a guaranteed contract to sell this electricity to the government, people are able to go to a bank and borrow the funds to cover the upfront costs of installing the solar panels. Then the profit obtained on a monthly basis is sufficient to pay back the loan and interest charges. After about 10 years, the loan is paid off and then the person with the solar panels can enjoy the operating profits for the remaining years on the original 20 year contract. It was fascinating to see firsthand the results of this program, as well as have discussions with many of the German people. Not only did we discuss with many of the engineers that are our customers, but we had discussions with the average citizens in various restaurants and hotels. Everyone knew the term “PV” and there was certainly an air of excitement about leading the world in renewable energy.

You might ask, “How does this affect Cimetrix?” Well the theory is that government feed-in tariffs will stimulate demand, which in turn will stimulate production of more solar panels, which will then lead to improved efficiencies in both the technology used in solar panels as well as the economies of scale, which will ultimately lead to better price/performance solar panels that are cost effective on their own merits without government subsidies. Since solar panels are based on silicon or thin film substrates and have a similar manufacturing process to computer chips, there is a need to continually improve the manufacturing process to make better solar cells and lower the manufacturing costs. That is where factory connectivity and advanced software systems similar to those used in semiconductor manufacturing come into play. Many of the German PV manufacturers have adopted the “PV2” software for connecting manufacturing equipment with factory software. Cimetrix has enhanced its product offerings to meet these needs and hopes the industry is successful in promoting widespread usage of these PV software standards. If this happens, this should significantly increase the available market for Cimetrix products and services.

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Topics: PV Standards, SEMI Standards, PV2 Standard, PVECI, Doing Business with Cimetrix, Germany

Have you heard the latest regarding the PV2 standards?

Posted by Cimetrix on Sep 29, 2009 8:19:00 AM

Cimetrix was among those recognized for their work on the PV2 Standard last week. On Tuesday, the PV-EIS task force was awarded the SEMI Europe Standards Merit Award 2009. This was the first time that a team has received the award since it was established in 2001. Our own Bruce Febvret was there to receive the honor on behalf of Cimetrix. He and Brian Rubow have served on the task force since its inception in September 2007.

PV2 Standards Award

Bruce is the one on the left =)

Also, don't miss our FREE webinar on maintaining quality and performance in your PVECI & GEM Standard Implementation!

DOWNLOAD THE RECORDED WEBINAR HERE.

Brian Rubow, principal engineer,will discuss common quality issues and performance challenges for PV 2 Standard implementation. The paper that we presented at the European PV SEC event last week will also be made available to all webinar registrants. 

You might also be interested in:

Topics: PV Standards, SEMI Standards, PV2 Standard, PVECI, Events, Honors

Presenting at the "most inspired platform for the PV Solar Sector"

Posted by Cimetrix on Sep 17, 2009 9:47:00 AM

PV 2 Standard InformationIn June of this year, the SEMI PV 2 Standard - Guide for PV Equipment Communication Interfaces (PVECI) was approved for publication by the global Audits and Reviews Subcommittee and became available for download on www.semi.org.  

Curious about the new PV standards? Planning on being in Hamburg, Germany this week? 

Cimetrix will be participating in the Visual Presentations at the European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference (PV SEC) in Hamburg, Germany next week.  Bruce Febvret will be representing Cimetrix at the conference and available to answer questions regarding our paper "Maintaining Quality and Performance in your Implementation of PVECI and GEM Standards." He will be near our poster (#2CV.1.77) on Wednesday, September 23 from 8:30 am - 10:10 am. The poster presentations will be on display in the Congress Center Hamburg (CCH) in the POSTER AREA in Halls D, E, F, G and Foyer D-G (2nd Floor). Click here to view a map of the venue.

Won't be in Germany? No problem.  We will be hosting a webinar on the same topic on Thursday, October 1. For your convenience, we will be presenting at 2 different times: 8:00 am MT/ 2:00 pm UTC as well as 5:00 pm MT/ 11:00 pm UTC. Brian Rubow, principal engineer,will discuss common quality issues and performance challenges for PV 2 Standard implementation. The paper being presented at PV SEC will be made available to all webinar registrants. 

Other PV2 Standard Resources:

Topics: PV Standards, SEMI Standards, PV2 Standard, PVECI, Events, Photovoltaic (PV)

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