Automotive connector and heated glazing manufacturer Strip Tinning has opened a new prototype line that produces string ribbon for solar cells.

The new production line has been opened at the company’s Arden Business Park facility in Birmingham. The prototype manufacturing line is the result of a €1 million European Commission Research Grant.

The company claims that the new production line will manufacture a ‘European first’ string ribbon that can be harnessed in solar panels across the globe. String ribbon is used in solar modules to connect the solar cells.

Steve O’Conner, commercial director at Strip Tinning explained: “The prototype line we have developed allows us to create solar ribbon that is placed as interconnectors between the blue wafers used in photovoltaic panels.”

He continued: “There is a demand for these wafers to be thinner and subsequently this can lead to them breaking more easily. What this state-of-the-art line gives us is the opportunity to test technology that we believe will produce softer ribbon with advanced performance characteristics.”

The new production line has the potential to manufacture 300-750MW of string ribbon for solar cells. If the prototype proves successful, Strip Tinning has plans to invest a further £500,000 into fully automating the line. This will enable volume production capable of generating €6 million of additional export sales and creating 10 to 15 new skilled jobs.

This year has proved to be a successful one for the Birmingham-based manufacturer, which has seen 20% growth in export turnover thanks in part to the solar power market.

Richard Barton, managing director of Strip Tinning, concluded: “Whilst automotive remains our largest market, the new prototype line has the potential to really accelerate our expansion into the solar panel sector.”