A robot works on crystalline solar cells at Wisconsin-based Helios USA, LLC. The opening of the manufacturing plant has supported 26 jobs and is projected to create a total of 50 permanent jobs in the state and was supported through a State Energy Program loan. | Courtesy of Helios USA, LLC.

A manufacturer of crystalline solar cells has opened a new manufacturing facility for the assembly of solar panels by plant staff and robots in Milwaukee as a result of Recovery Act funds from the Energy Department’s State Energy Program (SEP).

Helios USA, LLC is Wisconsin’s first manufacturer of high-performance solar modules for deployment in residential, commercial, industrial and utility-based solar electric systems. The company will supply solar panels to a number of customers.

With a $1.4 million loan from SEP, Helios assembles solar panels in the newly opened facility, located in what was previously an abandoned manufacturing plant in the Menomonee Valley area of Milwaukee, with the help of staff and assistance from robots when “superhuman” precision and sensitivity is needed. As of December 2011, the opening of the Helios manufacturing plant has supported 26 jobs and is projected to create a total of 50 permanent jobs in the state.

The complex process for manufacturing solar modules includes six basic workstations and utilizes the assistance of both operators and automated robots for stringing, interconnection, laminating, junction box attachment, frame presand flash test of solar cells. Two material-handling robots are used in the stringing process and an overhead-mounted robot for the ensuing steps. At the end of the entire process, a robot stacks the modules for shipment. This article in Assemblymag.com explains the solar manufacturing process in depth.

With such helpful robots assisting in the plants, it was necessary to develop names for each one. Children of Helios employees volunteered to get involved and name these robotic supporters of energy efficiency. Optimus, Buzz and Nigel work alongside Helios employees daily to facilitate a smooth, easy production process while supporting the implementation of clean energy efforts nationwide.