VLSI Research reveals top 10 PV cell equipment suppliers

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Market research firm, VLSI Research Inc., has compiled its inaugural, though currently a preliminary list of the top 10 PV cell manufacturing equipment suppliers for 2008, based on sales. Although dominated by German based equipment suppliers, the market research firm noted that U.S. based Applied Materials was the largest supplier, with sales of US$455 million. Applied took the number one spot due to its acquisitions in recent years coupled with the recognition of revenues from its first ‘Sunfab’ turnkey thin-film installations, which entered production for the first time in 2008.

The second largest PV equipment supplier, according to VLSI Research was Roth & Rau, which had sales of US$275 million in 2008. Other German based suppliers in the Top 10 rankings included, Centrotherm (No. 3, US$270 million), Manz Automation (No. 6, US$140 million), Schmid Group (No. 7, US$125 million), VON ARDENNE Anlagentechnik GmbH (No. 8, US$120 million) and Rena GmbH (No. 9, US$85 million).

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The rapid growth in thin-film solar start-ups boosted sales of not only Applied Materials but that of its largest rivals, OC Oerlikon Balzers and Ulvac Inc. Swiss based Oerlikon was the fourth largest equipment supplier in VLSI Research’s rankings, with sales of US$250 million, closely followed by Ulvac of Japan with sales of US$240 million in 2008.

3S Swiss Solar, another thin-film equipment supplier also did well in the rankings, coming in at no. 10 with sales in 2008 of US$70 million.

Although Applied dominated in the sales figures, the market research firm’s analyst, Andrew Thomas, noted that only US$35 million in sales separated the second to fifth ranked supplier, highlighting the tight competitive market. 

Competition and growth is still expected in 2009 as governments continue to support the development of renewable energy sources, VLSI Research said.

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