A limiting step to roll-to-roll production of dye-sensitized solar cells on metals is TiO2 sintering (10–30 min). Near infrared (NIR) heating is a novel process innovation which directly heats titanium substrates giving rapid binder removal and sintering. NIR heating (for 12.5 s) at varying power gave titanium temperatures of 545, 685 and 817°C yielding cells with efficiencies of 2.9, 2.8 and 2.5%. Identical cells prepared in a conventional oven (1800 s) at 500, 600 and 800°C gave 2.9, 2.6 and 0.2% efficiency. NIR sintering is ultrafast and has a wide process window making it ideal for rapid manufacturing on metals. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.