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Malaysian factory gets new solar tech

According to a recent report, a Massachusetts-based tech firm announced that it is partnering with the manufacturer of photovoltaic solar cells which has a factory in Malaysia.

This move makes the factory the first one to produce its proprietary solar wafers.

The wafer manufacturer originally planned to open a plant in the U.S., after receiving US$17 million in grants from the Department of Energy (DOE) to develop its technology and a US$150 million loan guarantee “to build innovative, new manufacturing facilities.” That loan guarantee ultimately went unused.

The Malaysia plant, which is owned by the with the company that manufactures photovoltaic solar cells and uses the firm’s technology, will sit next to the cell manufacturer’s cell and module manufacturing site in Cyberjaya, as part of a non-exclusive supply partnership.

The tech firm’s “direct wafer” process is unique because it significantly reduces the waste associated with cutting panels from silicon ingots. Instead, the process melts silicon into a molten bath to produce wafers.

The company says its product costs less than half the price of conventional wafers, which make up a significant portion of cell costs, because the process wastes little polysilicon. Early on, the tech firm stated its mission as making solar power cost-competitive with coal.

Driving Industry 4.0

 International collaboration is a top goal for Malaysia as it works to push it’s Industry 4.0 agenda.

According to it’s Industry4WRD Policy, notes that the overarching philosophy behind this Policy is A-C-T – Attract, Create and Transform.

  • Attract stakeholders to Industry 4.0 technologies & processes;
  • Create the right ecosystem for Industry 4.0 technologies to be adopted and to nurture innovations; and
  • Transform capabilities of the manufacturing industry to be Industry 4.0-ready

The Policy noted that transforming Malaysia’s manufacturing sector is not a short-term process, where many industries having experienced significant challenges for decades. A supportive policy environment is required over the next decade to provide businesses with stability and allow them to execute these long-term strategies.

It was noted that it is imperative that the Policy seeks to implement from the top: Industry 4.0 is expected to have far reaching impact across industries, societies and the broader economy. Thus, it is not a domain of any one Government department or agency. Governance for such initiatives should be initiated at the top most level in the country, with emphasis on strong cross-ministerial and agency collaboration.

The Government is working to increase awareness of the need, benefits and opportunities of Industry 4.0 technologies and business processes among manufacturing firms.

Another strategy that the Government aims to do is to establish digital/technology labs and collaborative platforms, especially public-private partnerships (PPPs), to create awareness and understanding, foster the adoption of new technologies, and facilitate the transfer of knowledge.

The partnerships between the two aforementioned firms will help to achieve its goals of:

  1. Supporting leading global and local industry leaders to establish digital and technology labs that showcase the potential applications, benefits and proof of concept of new technologies for industry adoption
  2. Create PPPs and collaborative programmes for manufacturing activities that foster digital adoption, collaborative deployment and development of local capabilities, especially in priority sectors and technologies
  3. Provide local firms, especially SMEs, with open access to smart manufacturing research, tools and technologies and help them understand what can be applied in the early stages of adoption

While the partnership is not a PPP it will enable greater economic prosperity as well as better, more economically friendly manufacturing processes.

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