In 2012, after completing a successful feasibility study made possible through funding from angel investors and research and development grants from the Israeli Office of the Chief Scientist, the team at Utilight received an infusion from venture capitalists to create their startup company. The product of their careful and considered team was a revolutionary printing technology they call Pattern Transfer Printing (PTP). This would allow for the immediate implementation in the photo voltaic metallization process of c-Si solar cells. All of this would increase the efficiency of the solar cells while still reducing the photo voltaic manufacturing costs.
While the company is a startup, the folks behind it are no up starts. Giora Dishon, CEO & Chairman holds a PhD in Material Science and has 30 years of experience in semiconductor and packaging processing. Amir Noy, Chief Technology Officer, holds a degree in physics from the prestigious Talpiot Program and formerly served as the CTO for Orbotech. Vice President of Engineering, Moshe Finarov has a PhD in Physics, 30 years of experience in semiconductors and optical systems, over 70 patents as well as being the author of the book “Starting Up” and serving as a lecturer at the Ben Gurion University. Rounding out the team is the Chief Physicist Michael Matusovsky who also holds a PhD in Physics, was formerly the head of physics at Orbotech and brings over a decade of experience in the development of multiple optical technologies.
Utilight recognizes that photovoltaics are no longer a niche market, but rather will continue to comprise a growing portion of the energy market, going so far as to argue that solar energy may be our main source of energy by 2050. However, current technologies are reaching their efficiency limits and therefore, the key to unlocking the potential of solar power to produce at such a scale lies in the advances in the photovoltaic technology itself. They see their technology as “paving the way to grid parity.”
In a video detailing their innovative approach, Uplight explained the advantages of their development:
“Utilight’s method requires no change in the existing production line, with only an addition of one module with a minimal investment, providing savings of up to 70% in silver paste and an increased efficiency of up to .4%. With a PTP printer, the structure of a silicone wafer changed by dramatically increasing the amount of silver printed lines while decreasing their size.”
Using patent pending light induced deposition technology the PTP process is able to print patterned features with aspect rations as high as 25 micron in width and 15 micron in height, increasing the efficiency of the solar cells, but still using the same basic materials as other processes. The company claims that the new 3D printing process will annually saves of up to $500,000 in silver paste and and additional $500,000 in annual efficiency for a standard 40mw PV manufacturing line. They even go so far as to promise a full return on cost in 6 months.
PTP is done by a CWIR laser through a disposable low cost tape that has trenches. Those trenches are filled during printing with a standard high viscosity silver paste. The trench compresses the paste into a straight line that is then released onto the silicone wafer. Eight cameras record the process to ensure absolute accuracy. It is capable of single and multiple prints that require no downtime between prints for drying. The PTP system also will fit easily into any production like, with no extra space required.
Additional details on this PV printing system are described in the video provided below. Let’s hear your thoughts on Utilight’s process in the 3D Printed Solar Cell forum thread on 3DPB.com.