Friday, November 2, 2012

Printing solar

We had a little bit of upbeat solar chat recently.  So I thought I would throw in some fun solar news: Printable solar panels.

DIY Solar Pocket Factory Machine Can Print a Solar Panel Every 15 Seconds!
Morgana Matus, NPR, 7 October 2012 (hat tip: NC)

Inventors Shawn Frayne and Alex Hornstein are looking to revolutionize the business of small-scale solar panels with The Solar Pocket Factory, a backyard photovoltaic panel printing system. Successfully funded by a Kickstarter campaign, the two have placed themselves at the forefront of the micro solar movement, which aims to cheaply and quickly produce small PV panels.
Note that there is a pretty interesting video of the process at the full story at the main link.

These are the type of panels that power up small devices.  A unit that easily fits in the palm of your hand powers up generates about 1/2 a volt.  When you wire up your voltage generators one after another (in series) the voltage is additive - when you do it in parallel voltage remains the same but current is increased.

The primary purpose of the machine seems to be to get the mistake prone people out of the labor mix.  The also noted the following.
Through the process of designing and manufacturing their products, they found that the micro solar panels they used to power their devices were brittle, expensive, and poorly made. Taking matters into their own hands, they traveled the world and spent months researching current models. They found that half of the cost of conventional panels lay in their assembly, as many parts of the body are pieced and soldered by hand. They also observed that 15% of panels contained flaws from imperfect soldering, and in many cases, the materials used were cut-rate and disintegrated over the period of a few years.
We also had a discussion about how reliable and long lived the large panels were.  Fortunately some of the problems they are noting above would probably not apply to them.  I don't think there constituent parts are broken up and re-soldered back into the shape desired.   Since I am not sure on that count, I certainly hope that it is the case.
Thumbnail snapshot from video of a slightly larger array created using these panel.


PioneerPreppy said...

I have no clue how this 3d printing thing works so I cannot really grasp it. However your quotes about how the other panels are made was pretty enlightening.

russell1200 said...

The video shows it, and it looks really cool. But I am with you, it is getting pretty close to that unexplained technology = magic territory for me.

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