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Applied Materials makes third solar acquisition

The maker of factory equipment for the semiconductor industry gets a bigger piece of the solar pie in its $335 million buy of Baccini.

Michael Kanellos Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.
Michael Kanellos

Applied Materials bought Baccini, a European company specializing in manufacturing tools, today for approximately $335 million to further expand its footprint in solar energy.

Applied has been the world's largest manufacturer of factory equipment for the semiconductor industry for several years, but has been making a concerted effort to expand into the solar industry. The manufacturing process for both crystalline solar cells and thin-film solar cells, after all, are similar to the processes employed, respectively, to make chips and liquid crystal displays (LCDs).

The company has even been building complete, turnkey factories for some solar clients. Some believe that this will expand the number of solar manufacturers because these transactions enable newcomers to take advantage of Applied's expertise. (Charlie Gay, who heads up Applied's solar group, is also one of the regular speaking stars on the clean-tech circuit.)

In May 2006, Applied agreed to acquire Applied Films (which made equipment that deposits chemicals onto substrates) and HCT Shaping Systems for its solar group.

Baccini's equipment is largely aimed at customers making silicon solar cells. The tools help with the metalization process, which involves inserting metal connections into materials, then testing.