North Vancouver, January 22, 2021 – Aurora Solar Technologies Inc. (TSX.V: ACU) (“Aurora”, the “Company”) today provided a corporate update including InsightTM market introduction progress, and DMTM commissioning and its positioning for use with new solar cell technologies.
In December 2020, Aurora announced a strategic partnership for the integration of Aurora’s Insight data science product for solar cell production yield optimization with WAVELABS’ solar cell testers. The Insight product is designed as an innovative platform to maximize solar cell manufacturing yield and extend Aurora’s business to include software solutions capable of generating a recurring revenue stream.
Since the Aurora – WAVELABS announcement, Aurora has completed development of its market-entry version of Insight, called “Insight Essentials”. The Company is at an advanced stage for introduction of Insight Essentials to a lead customer, initially for evaluation and confirmation of effectiveness and operational benefit. Installation and commissioning for this is expected to take place during the current quarter. Following this market introduction phase, the Company expects to market and roll the product out to one or more additional customers, pending the easing of international travel restrictions over the coming months.
DM installations and customer acceptances in China
As previously reported by the Company, during 2019 and 2020, Aurora delivered a large quantity of DMTM measurement systems to numerous customers in China for the first time. While DM products have been well-proven in installations outside China, some of the new China-based installations have faced challenges in meeting product performance requirements that are associated with novel customer manufacturing parameters that vary by site. These challenges combined with COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions preventing site access by our senior technical experts have adversely delayed completing system commissioning and acceptance testing.
The Company is taking a proactive and systematic approach to resolving these matters, including product refinements, operational enhancements and customer training. Despite the pandemic-related travel and supply chain challenges, the performance of our products has steadily improved to accommodate the customer application challenges, and we are continuing a positive path to complete the commissioning processes. However, as previously stated, the impact of these delays on customer operations may affect the collection of final payments that are tied to successful commissioning or increase the potential for product returns. This situation cannot be reasonably estimated at this time and there can be no assurance that Aurora’s business will not be impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and customer product adoption decisions.
DM suitability for new technologies
The Company’s technological efforts as described above also benefit us in preparation for DM product usage for the next generation of solar cells, particularly “HJT” and “TOPCon” cells. These are the leading contenders for the next generation of solar cell designs for volume manufacturing and deployment. HJT stands for “Heterojunction Technology” and TOPCon stands for “Tunnel Oxide Passivated Contacts”. Each of these technologies promise a relative efficiency improvement of four percent or more over the established PERC technology. Pilot or full-scale production of HJT and TOPCon solar cells is already underway at leading solar cell manufacturers.
The proprietary Infrared Reflectometry sensing technology used in Aurora’s DM products has unique advantages for measurement of quality-related properties during HJT and TOPCon cell manufacturing. In both cell technologies, conductive layers must be measured independently of similar adjacent material, which is not possible with other measurement techniques used in production. Additionally, the DM is uniquely able to simultaneously measure both conductivity and thickness of certain HJT elements, which otherwise would require two separate measurements.
The Company has DM systems installed, accepted and operating at one HJT manufacturing facility that is operated by the top solar cell manufacturer in China, and we are conducting pre-purchase TOPCon evaluations with another existing large customer outside China.
The Company is entering into a product re-marketing agreement with Xiamen UMS Information Technology Co. Ltd (“UMS”), a subsidiary of Xiamen Intretech Inc. (www.intretech.com) a China-based supplier of information systems for Industry 4.0 “Smart Factory” automation and operation. UMS has previously acted as a reseller for Aurora DM products, including units that have been installed and accepted in China. The salient commercial elements of this re-marketing agreement include: UMS retention of multiple DM systems for customer evaluation and demonstration purposes, from a volume order that a previous end user choose not to adopt due to complications with its underlying manufacturing application; obligations to re-market the remaining DM systems from this total; and development of a robust distribution alliance for Aurora’s DM and new Insight products. In the event the remaining DM systems cannot be resold by September 30, 2021, the Company’s maximum financial obligation to repurchase them for its own inventory is approximately USD 200,000 under this arrangement with UMS. The Company anticipates that these systems will be resold during the next buying cycle for solar cell plant expansions later in calendar 2021. Aurora expects that this strategic partnership with UMS will enhance our efforts in China especially given the near-term limitations associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.
About Aurora Solar Technologies:
Aurora Solar Technologies is a leader in the development and delivery of inline process measurement, analysis and control systems for solar cell manufacturers. We believe that solar power will dominate the renewable energy field, and our mission is to bring quality and profitability to every customer through superior control of critical processes during solar cell manufacturing.
Aurora’s products are used by some of the world’s most advanced and respected solar cell manufacturers. With headquarters near Vancouver, Canada, Aurora has operations in Shanghai, China and partners in all major solar manufacturing markets. Aurora is a public company, traded on the TSX Venture Exchange (ACU) and is a two-time TSX-V Top 50 winner. Aurora’s website is located at www.aurorasolartech.com.
For further information contact:
Phone: +1 (604) 317-3936
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