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Applied Materials cuts SunFab and 400-500 jobs

Applied Materials is discontinuing sales of its SunFab lines for thin-film solar panel manufacturing to new customers in a restructuring of its Energy and Environmental Solutions segment.

The aim is to cut operating expenses by at least US$100 million on an annual basis.

“While Applied has delivered significant innovations with our SunFab production line and made sustainable progress on our technology roadmap, the thin-film market has been negatively impacted by several factors, including delays in utility-scale solar adoption, solar panel manufacturers’ challenges in obtaining affordable capital, changes and uncertainty in government renewable energy policies, and competitive pressure from crystalline silicon technologies,” says Mike Splinter, Chairman and CEO.

“Led by Mark Pinto, EES will focus on our industry-leading crystalline silicon solar business and on pursuing other opportunities in advanced energy technologies like LED lighting.”

Applied says it will continue to offer individual tools to thin-film solar manufacturers, and that R&D efforts to improve thin-film solar panel efficiency and high-productivity deposition will carry on.

Existing SunFab customers will still receive services, upgrades and capacity increases.

Applied Materials also plans to divest its low-emissivity architectural glass coating products, although it will continue development activities in new technologies such as ‘smart’ electrochromic glass.

Focus on c-Si

Applied Materials says it will now put an emphasis on “opportunities in crystalline silicon (c-Si) solar and advanced energy, including light emitting diode (LED) technology.”

Applied’s solar R&D centre in Xi’an, China, will now be concentrating on c-Si solar and other technologies.

Cutting 400-500 positions

Somewhere between 400 and 500 jobs are expected to be affected, although a number of these “may transfer to other groups or functions within the company,” Applied Materials says.

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Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity