Monday, January 12th, 2009

Rudolph Technologies today announces Discover Solar™—the first fab management software tool designed specifically to help photovoltaic (PV) manufacturers increase cell efficiency and reduce costs. Discover Solar accepts all available data from each step in the solar manufacturing process, and then applies statistical process control (SPC) algorithms to generate automated reports.  A company spokesperson confirmed that the product is in at least one beta evaluation, and has hit production targets.

Sun (source:

Sun (source:

While retaining the Discover brand name used for IC yield software, this new offering is substantially different. Mike Plisinski, vice president and general manager of the company’s Data Analysis and Review Business Unit explains, “Discover Solar incorporates a completely re-engineered database structure and analysis engine optimized for the unique requirements of high-volume photovoltaic production. It provides comprehensive analysis of process performance information, allowing manufacturers to discover and act upon opportunities to improve the energy conversion efficiency of their products. Using Discover Solar, PV process engineers can monitor the health of a complete production line and quickly identify tool and sub-component problems as well as incoming material issues.”

The process control software suite performs tasks including automated root cause analysis, statistical process control, equipment performance and history tracking, and advanced charting and report generation. Designed to support high-volume PV fabs running over 50,000 cells per day, the software can also assist in identifying 2nd-order effects between tools and processes, and in catching incoming material quality excursions. Discover Solar is available now for purchase.

Aaron Hand at SI provides a fine overview of this technology
, including mention that Rudolph got the core IP in the 2006 August merger, and August acquired it from Inspex. KLA-Tencor acquired the “wafer inspection” assets of Hamamatsu Photonics subsidiary Inspex back in 2004 when August got the “data management” assets. With PV fabs running orders-of-magnitudes higher volumes compared to IC fabs, targeted technology like this from Rudolph makes a lot of sense. –E.K.

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