Vittore De Leonibus, CEO at Teknisolar tells us about solar panel laminators.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Vittore De Leonibus: Thanks for asking. Fortunately, my family, I, and my employees are all doing well at the moment. These troubled times have put the whole world to the test. These are times when it is difficult to totally believe the phrase “I’m fine.” Everyday life has changed and although it is a matter of habit, having to give up socializing, which we used to take for granted, is sometimes hard.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Teknisolar.
Vittore De Leonibus: I come from 34 years of experience as worldwide vice-president of engineering for the multinational glass company Pilkington-NSG. Teknisolar was born in 2009, with the aim of creating the most revolutionary and best-performing laminator for photovoltaic panels. With my collaborators, who have a wide range of experience and technical expertise in renewable energy and glass processing and applications, we have designed a revolutionary and unique lamination system. We currently have two offices: one in Italy, in Abruzzo, and one in England, in Birchwood.
How does Teknisolar innovate?
Vittore De Leonibus: Thomas Jefferson used to say, “If you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.” Inspired by this philosophy, the Teknisolar team has invested eleven years in research and development to develop a system that is totally different from the competitor laminators and that concretely solves all the most recurring problems that solar panel manufacturers attribute to the lamination process, allowing a noteworthy increase in productivity.
The lamination process is often referred to as the “bottleneck” in solar panel production lines in terms of cycle time, productivity, and product reliability; it is also the most delicate phase since it seals panels that will be exposed to environmental stressors for a long period of time, and their efficiency must be guaranteed for at least 25 years. Surely the main difference to our competitors lies in the technology we have developed. All laminators on the market are equipped with a membrane, which exerts pressure on the panel by means of applying different chamber pressures below and above the membrane. In addition, they heat the solar panels only from below.
When processing glass-glass modules, especially those that contain very thin glass that is becoming more and more common, traditional lamination technology requires rigid protection around the panel (for example, frames or corners) to counteract excessive bending of the outer edges of the upper glass, due to the pressure exerted by the membrane, this phenomenon is called “edge pinch.” The same, if not prevented, could lead to the breaking of the glass or, over time, could be the cause of delamination, as the glass will tend to return to its initial form.
Our technology completely eliminates this phenomenon, thanks to three factors:
- Reaching the vacuum in a few seconds
- The membrane is replaced by a rigid plate
- Heating on two sides
Another factor that distinguishes us from competitors is the cycle time: we are able to guarantee cycle times ranging from 110 to 150/180 seconds, depending on the panel to be laminated. A standard membrane system has a cycle time of approximately 360/420 seconds. It can therefore be clearly deduced that installing one of our systems leads to an increase in productivity of over 200%.
Moreover, with our laminator, there is the possibility of customizing the system to fully satisfy the customer’s requests. The customization process starts with a technical study of the configuration of the modules to be laminated and continues with the execution of tests carried out in two stages: first, we run some preliminary trials using the clients’ different sets of materials, and then we invite the client to visit and participate in further testing and perfection of the process. Our technical team then prepares a detailed report of the results obtained, demonstrating and highlighting the functionality and efficiency of the proposed lamination line configuration. This is a service that we offer free of charge to all companies that intend to experience the quality of our technology first hand.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business, and how are you coping?
Vittore De Leonibus: Fortunately, the economic consequences of the pandemic have not affected our company much. With great dedication and responsibility, taking all the necessary precautions, we have carried out our promotional activity both in the office and with smart-working. Some of our orders have been delayed due to Covid-19. However, this has not slowed down our commitment or our business.
Have you had to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Vittore De Leonibus: In March 2020, when the pandemic also reached Italy, we responsibly chose to continue our work from home. Obviously, not the whole team had this possibility, but where it was possible, we preferred this way of working. In summer, thanks to the heat and the decline in infections, we were able to return to semi-normality.
Now we try to live with this new normal. What we have learned is that human beings have an innate ability to adapt and reinvent themselves in the face of difficulties. This aspect is reflected both in life and in work. Being able to find the positive side and reinvent yourself in the face of every difficulty turns out to always be a winning strategy.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Vittore De Leonibus: During the Italian lockdown that began in March 2020, the entire team, especially the technical-commercial team whose members need to work together closely, began using Microsoft Teams. This allowed us to collaborate in real-time as if we were in the same office. At the end of the lockdown, once back in the office, we continued to use this software to conduct conferences with potential customers.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Vittore De Leonibus: Our competitors are manufacturers of lamination lines for solar panels. Like all competitions, it is not easy to stand out. However, we are very confident in our technology, and we know it is the only one of its kind in the world. We have already filed two patents, and two more are in the approval phase. Our lamination line is the result of our team’s vast experience, years of technological tests, and innovative and revolutionary ideas.
We can say that our laminator overturns the usual concept of lamination. Unconventional ideas are initially difficult to understand and accept, but we are working hard and with dedication, every day, to improve ourselves more and more and to make the latest version of our revolutionary Robostak laminator known to the whole world.
Your final thoughts?
Vittore De Leonibus: We believe in teamwork. We believe that big ideas make big dreams come true with the right people and the right team spirit. Since the lamination process is the most delicate part of the production of the solar panel, our mission is to propose ourselves as a serious and reliable partner, able to provide a unique product that allows you to achieve high goals at a low cost.