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Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Cells and Modules

Cognex solutions inspect, identify, and trace every step of the solar manufacturing process.

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Solar manufacturers and machine builders rely on Cognex vision technology throughout the photovoltaic (PV) production chain, from wafer handling to PV cell fabrication and module assembly. Cognex vision systems perform precision alignment and inspect materials at every stage of the PV manufacturing process. Image-based industrial barcode readers identify and track wafers and PV cells along the supply chain through final module assembly. Vision tools locate features of wafers, dies, and packages under extremely challenging conditions and can detect low contrast and noisy images, variable fiducial patterns, and other part variations.

Cognex handles a wide range of applications in the solar PV cell and module manufacturing process, including:

  • Chip and edge damage detection
  • Finger quality inspection
  • Bus bar quality inspection
  • Color consistency measurement
  • Coating quality inspection
  • Alignment prior to solder paste screen printing and stringer assembly
  • Identification and traceability

Wafer Processing, Inspection, and Identification

Wafers, also known as slices or substrates, are thin pieces of semiconductor material used in the manufacturing of photovoltaics, which convert light into electricity. Machine vision automates wafer handling; enables precision alignment; and inspects bus bars and AR coating to create thin, high quality wafers with a fine pitch. Quality inspections help manufacturers avoid wafers which are warped, flipped, chipped, contain saw marks, or display contour defects.

Solar PV Cell Fabrication

Cognex machine vision products monitor and inspect wet processing, metallization, firing, and color sorting for high quality PV cell fabrication. Industry-leading machine vision software detects cell orientation and cells defects; aligns PV cells for screen printing; inspects cells edges with laser edge isolation; sorts and grades cells by color; and performs back print and front print registration inspections.

Download: Solar Industry Guide Download: Solar Panel Inspection Application Note

Solar PV Module Assembly

In the final step, many PV cells are assembled into strings and packaged into a single unit, called a module. Machine vision ensures accurate cell spacing, construction, and part placement during module assembly. During stringing alignment and inspection, machine vision centers the PV cells, minimizing the need for mechanical contact, and examines the cells for defects while also verifying the continuity and correct assembly of each string. Multiple modules may be assembled into a solar panel.

Wafer-to-Package Traceability

Industrial image-based barcode readers handle even degraded, reflective, or low-contrast marks from die backsides, substrates, encapsulated packages, and PCBs for complete traceability. Barcode readers reliably track parts and identify wafers, PV cells, and modules throughout production and assembly.

Ingot Formation

Cognex machine vision products monitor ingot formation, providing precise dimensional measurements during the crystal pulling process. The In-Sight 8000’s small form factor and robust edge detection tool ensure the crystal seeding, shouldering, shoulder circuiting, and diameter equalizing stages are performed to exacting standards for proper ingot formation.

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