Sterling Heights-based Kuka Systems North America says it has made a successful entry into the burgeoning Canadian solar panel manufacturing sector.

For its first Canadian customer, Kuka Systems is installing three partially automated, post-lamination framing lines for trimming, framing, testing and packout of photovoltaic panels, a $12 million contract. Each line consists of five robots, as well as applicators, conveyors and other handling and testing equipment. Installation began in the first quarter of 2011.

This customer is building Canada’s largest solar panel manufacturing plant, in southern Ontario. Each line will be capable of handling 120 megawatts of annual production, making it North America’s largest manufacturing site for crystalline silicon-type panels and one of the largest on the continent making any type panel.

“This is a landmark contract, one of our largest in North America to date and our first solar-related installation in the small but rapidly growing Canadian solar manufacturing sector,” said Robert Giaier, vice president for alternative energy at Kuka Systems Corp. North America. “We welcome the opportunity to contribute our solar technology and extensive experience as assembly line integrators to our customer’s success.”

The post-lamination lines were built first at Kuka Systems North America, tested in-house, then disassembled and trucked to the customer’s facility where they are being reassembled.

“It’s fair to say installing a piece of automation in Ontario is more involved than in many other North American jurisdictions,” said Giaier.

The technical requirements for electrical systems definitely are more stringent in a number of ways, covering transformers, special wiring and other safety considerations.

“The fact Kuka Systems has installed complete automated assembly lines in Ontario for some of the world’s leading automakers is a huge help,” Giaier said. “We have a great deal of retained knowledge of the Ontario technical requirements and how to anticipate them in our planning and site preparation, a definite plus for our solar customers.”

With the growth of the modern solar power industry, Kuka Systems, a world leading systems integrator specializing in manufacturing flexible automatic production processes, has developed and installed proprietary solar automation solutions for both the crystalline silicon and thin film sectors of the industry. Those technologies cover wafer, cell and module production, helping the PV panel manufacturing sector improve their competitiveness. Kuka Systems’ expertise in designing and building integrated assembly lines for the solar industry leverages decades of experience automating the assembly lines of some of the world’s largest automakers. The Ontario facility targets the Ontario market because of strong interest in solar power development being stimulated by attractive feed-in tariffs offered by the government of Canada’s most populous province.

Kuka Systems Corp North America is part of the Kuka Systems Group of Augsburg, Germany, a leading global supplier of flexible automation systems for the automotive, aerospace, energy and industrial solutions sectors. Some 3,500 employees worldwide work on ideas, concepts and solutions for automated production and the provision of products and services for virtually all tasks in the industrial processing of metallic and non-metallic materials. The energy division offers engineering services, automated production modules and complete turnkey production lines for the photovoltaic, solar thermal and wind energy sectors.

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