LONDON Applied Materials Inc. is extending its investments in companies making equipment for the solar cell industry and is buying, for $330 million in cash, privately held Italian group Baccini SpA.
Baccini, (Treviso, Italy) is a specialist supplier of automated metallization and test systems for making crystalline silicon (c-Si) photovoltaic (PV) cells.
Applied (Santa Clara, Calif.) says combining this technology with its own semiconductor interconnect processing expertise, manufacturing capabilities, and R&D resources "will provide customers with world-class, automated production technology for fabricating advanced c-Si solar cells."
The latest move takes Applied's solar acquisition investments above the $1 billion mark. Most recently, the company announced plans to buy for about $475 million HCT Shaping Systems SA (Cheseaux, Switzerland). HCT sells wire saw systems for the production of wafers based on crystalline silicon substrates.
Founded in 1967, the Italian group is regarded as a pioneer in material handling equipment specifically focused on ultra-thin solar wafers. Its latest lines can process wafers less than 120 micrometers thick, which is said to reduce significantly the cost per Watt of solar cells as polysilicon continues to remain in short supply.
Applied says reliable processing of ultrathin wafers is key to next-generation c-Si manufacturing because it will allow customers to minimize the use of silicon material, which now represents more than 60 percent of solar cell manufacturing cost.
"As a key supplier to both the c-Si and thin film solar markets, we are committed to driving down the cost and ramping up the scale of PV manufacturing to make solar energy competitive with grid electricity," said Mike Splinter, president and CEO of Applied.
Baccini delivered the PV industry's first integrated metallization line over 20 years ago.
"Baccini and Applied share an enterprising spirit and both have a 40-year history of delivering innovative, highly-efficient and productive products," said Gisulfo Baccini, founder and chairman of the company.
The deal is expected to be completed early next year, subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals.