Applied Materials Inc. has acquired the private Swiss company HCT Shaping Systems, a supplier of precision wafering systems for manufacturing crystalline silicon substrates for the solar industry. The acquisition, which cost Applied approximately $483 million, expands the company's portfolio of solar solutions. According to a company release, the move will help Applied's solar customers reduce the costs of manufacturing photovoltaic (PV) cells to make solar energy more competitive with grid electricity. HCT is now part of Applied's new Precision Wafering Systems division, operating under the Solar Business Group headed by Charles Gay. "This acquisition, combined with our strong production technology and global support infrastructure, will enable us to bring crystalline silicon solar manufacturing to a new level of efficiency and help drive down the cost-per-watt of solar power," Mike Splinter, president and CEO of Applied Materials, said in a statement. "Our roadmaps are aligned with the goal of bringing new and advanced manufacturing technologies to reduce the cost of solar energy," Stefan Schneeberger, who has been appointed vice president and general manager of the Precision Wafering Systems division, said in a statement. "Together, we will help customers to continuously reduce the grams of silicon needed per watt, while significantly improving their productivity."