Helping award winning factory boost production in Singapore

2013-11-04 - ABB has provided a comprehensive package of robotics solutions, power distribution and power quality systems that enable REC’s manufacturing plant in Singapore, one of the world’s largest integrated solar production facilities, to manufacture wafers, cells and modules at the peak of productivity, reliability and energy efficiency.
By ABB Communications

When REC Solar ASA (REC), one of the world’s leading solar energy companies, inaugurated its new production facility in Singapore in 2010, it was the biggest single investment in the company’s history. It was also the largest investment made by any corporation in Singapore’s growing and government-prioritized clean technology sector.

Costing approximately $1.96 billion (or EUR 1.3 billion) to build in 2008, the integrated solar production facility is one of the largest of its kind in the world for the manufacture of solar wafers, cells and modules that harness the sun’s energy and convert it into emission-free electricity.

By integrating all three processes – wafer slicing, cell creation and module manufacturing – in a single highly automated and state-of-the-art production facility, REC achieves significant cost advantages.

The facility itself is a benchmark of sustainability and energy efficiency, having won a Gold rating in Singapore’s Green Mark Award for best practice in environmental building design and performance.

ABB’s role in this world-scale project was to provide an extensive array of automation and electrical solutions that provide the facility and its manufacturing processes with fast and accurate automated production and a constant disturbance-free supply of reliable electric power.

REC’s integrated solar production facility in Singapore.

The solutions comprise two robotics packages for the wafer slicing and cell manufacturing plants. This is where the silicon ingots are crystalized and sliced into ultra-thin wafers a fraction of the thickness of a human hair. They are then chemically treated in the cell manufacturing plant to acquire photovoltaic properties.

The solutions include the IRB 6640, which has an exceptionally large working range and high payload, and the Flexpicker™ IRB 360, a high-speed, compact and high payload pick-and-place robot. The speed and accuracy of the robots contribute to REC’s production requirements of continuous flow manufacturing with high product yield and high quality.

Two of 16 FlexPicker IRB 360 robots in action in the cell manufacturing plant.
Power is transferred to the entire site through an ABB grid connection comprising 66 kV gas-insulated switchgear and power and distribution transformers. It is then distributed to the wafer fab plant, slurry recovery and wastewater treatment plants by ABB medium-voltage and low-voltage power distribution systems. These consist of a vast array of ABB power and automation products that provide the safe, reliable and efficient supply of electricity to each plant.

Each ABB power system is integrated with an ABB Power Quality Monitoring System with monitoring, control and protection functionalities to ensure consistent power quality and reliability for these critical production processes.

Based on ABB’s flagship automation platform for process industries, Extended Automation System 800xA, the power quality monitoring system provides a number of vital requirements including real-time monitoring of circuit breakers, IEC 61850 integration, power quality analysis, energy consumption reporting, and process behavior analysis.

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A solar module, manufactured by REC at its Singapore plant.
Image courtesy of REC.