Applied Materials, Inc. (Applied Materials), a US-based provider of Nanomanufacturing Technology solutions for the global semiconductor and solar industries, has introduced a new platform for slicing ingots into ultra-thin wafers, Applied HCT MaxEdge wire saw. The MaxEdge helps in reducing the cost of manufacturing photovoltaic (PV) cells by up to $0.18 per watt.

Key technical advances, consisting an industry-first dual-wire management system, allows the MaxEdge system to deliver significantly higher throughput and load capacity than competitive systems, while requiring much less factory floor space and fewer operators for equivalent megawatt output.

By making thinner wafers, PV cell manufacturers can lessen the amount of silicon per wafer and lower the cost-per-watt of solar electricity. To manufacture thinner wafers, traditional wire saws must reduce the ingot length (load) and the cutting speed. The uniquely designed MaxEdge system delivers ultra-thin wafers without sacrificing throughput by enabling larger loads and using thinner wires at higher cutting speeds.

“With the MaxEdge system we’ve boosted the wafer output and lowered the operating expenses of our industry-leading Applied HCT B5 system, making the best wire saw on the market even better,” said Stefan Schneeberger, vice president and general manager of Applied Materials’ Precision Wafering Systems division. “The MaxEdge system builds on a 25-year history of wire saw innovation and incorporates key feedback from our customers. Since the wafer is the most expensive component of crystalline silicon-based PV manufacturing flow, reducing wafer fabrication cost is critical to the goal of making solar energy competitive with grid power.”

The MaxEdge system’s breakthrough dual-wire management system uses four independently-controlled direct drive motors and advanced process control to lower wire tension, lessening wire wear and decreasing ingot scrap and unplanned downtime. Reduced tension also allows smaller diameter cutting wires to be used, resulting in significantly less silicon loss without compromising yield.

The MaxEdge system is part of Applied’s portfolio of production-proven systems for ultra-thin crystalline silicon solar cells, with the Applied ATON PVD system for anti-reflective and passivation layer deposition and the Applied Baccini Soft Line integrated system for all-in-one screen printing, edge isolation, test and sort.