ADVANCING SOLAR TECHNOLOGY WITH THE HELP OF 3D PRINTING

 

Solarytics, the Californian based start-up company have been using solar energy. They're working towards developing a product for the market and it is currently engaged in research, testing and product engineering.

 

They're using the Makerbot Method platform to create optimised testing rigs for its cutting-edge solar panel technology.

 

 

The Challenge of Developing Complex Test Rigs

 

The process off loading 'odd-shaped' and 'heavy' (referring to 80lbs or heavier) solar panels onto a testing rig is both awkward and labour-intensive. This process used to require multiple personnel and lots of testing space. There was also the risk of damaging and scratching the solar panel by dragging it to and from the flash test machine.

 

The co-founder and his team started out with cheaper desktop 3D Printers. They quickly found that - the trial and error of calibration as well as the process of reprinting proved to be very time-consuming and exhausting.Complex assemblies which have tight tolerances were almost impossible to print. The alternative of outsourcing can cost up to $10,000 (this is a price which means any iterations would not be possible). 

 

 

Iterative Design

 

At the start of 2019, the team invested in a Makerbot Method 3D printer. This was due to it's ability to be able to print complicated dissolvable support material.

 

The co-founder of Solarlytics, Engineer Doug Raymond said "The beauty of the method is [that] you start with the print at the end of Friday and when you're back in the office [on Monday] it's completely printed. The METHOD is a step-above all the other 3D printers we have used."

 

Following, the initial success that they had with METHOD, Raymond's team made the decision that they would invest in a second printer. They chose the Method X. The Method X has the ability to print higher temperature materials such as ABS and, more interestingly, ASA - a UV-resistant form of ABS. Using the METHOD, Solarlytics’ engineers can create the drawing in the CAD system, send it to the printer, and execute a perfect print in one round, instead of three or four attempts.

 

 

Solar Panel Wheel Clamp Assembly

 

The wheel clamp assembly Solarlytics engineers designed and manufactured on METHOD allows for a single person to roll the solar panel onto the flash test machine, easily position it, and perform testing. It prevents having to drag and possibly scratch or damage the solar panel and requires much less space, protecting the equipment and the system.

 

The ability to print with Stratasys® SR-30 soluble supports allowed Solarlytics engineers to design the wheel clamp assembly as one complex part, which would have been impossible to machine because of its internal bearings and pivot point.

 

 

Learn more about MakerBot METHOD at www.makerbot.com/method and shop their range on our website.