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Solar Problems and Solar Solutions!

A project log for SOLAR DISPLAY CASE v2.0

A Weatherproof case housing three portable monitors allowing for increased productivity no matter where the user is working from.

Brian WhitsettBrian Whitsett 08/05/2021 at 17:230 Comments
Solar panel doesn't fit inside case :(

Unfortunately, the solar panel will be too big to fit inside the case even if I modified the frame. So I had to come up with a SOLution… okay no more puns I promise.

But first, let me kick this log off but saying a quick thank you to the judges of Hackaday Prize for taking the time and effort to evaluate at my project. Words cannot express the gratitude and excitement I feel to be a finalist for Hackaday Prize 2021! Thank you a thousand times over.

Now, the main issue is the size of the panel I originally purchased is too large to fit inside the case. However, in v1.0 I acknowledged my concerns over the overall weight of the project too, and now that I am a finalist I have to consider mass production methods and how we can keep the cost of raw materials to a minimum. With all of this in mind, I hit the drawing board to search for an answer to all of these problems. Needless to say I solved all of them!

 The Fuji F-WAVE is a flexible solar panel boasting ~100 Watt performance at a level of efficiency that exceeds monocrystalline panels

This panel is extremely thin and flexible, making it perfect for mounting on the backside of the monitors while still being able to fit inside of the case. F-WAVE panels are also significantly lighter than monocrystalline panels so there will be less strain on the hinges holding the monitors and the weight of the overall project will be reduced as well. The high durability of the F-WAVE panel makes it perfect for use on the outside of the case too. The EVA film on traditional monocrystalline panels can crack much like glass, but the flexibility of the F-WAVE panels boasts the ability to absorb impacts that may occur from drops or accidents during use or transportation. The idea of the Solar Display Case is to be able to transport and use the displays in any conditions and to remove the burden of worrying about protecting your displays during transportation or constraining them to only being used with a static power source. The Fuji F-WAVE panels make this possible by providing a (literally) flexible and durable solution to our solar panel woes. 

 Using the F-WAVE panel is not only functionally beneficially, but also financially too. The F-WAVE panel comes in a 100 Watt roll -much like a carpet- and can be cut into smaller sections or panels. My original design used monocrystalline panels that retailed for $50 per 20 Watt panel, where as the cost of the F-WAVE is $127 for a 100 Watt roll including shipping. Since we will be cutting our 100 Watt roll into five 20 Watt panels, that leaves us at a unit cost of $25.40 per 20 Watt panel resulting in savings of 50% BEFORE wholesale pricing is factored in. Although I was bummed out when I saw the panel I ordered wasn’t going to work, I was able to pivot my mistake into an opportunity for improvement and was able to come through with an even better solution! Paying less for a superior product is definitely a win. 

 From a manufacturing perspective, the F-WAVE is a perfect candidate for automated processing. After measuring the size of the roll required to produce 20 Watts of solar energy, and then use machine automation to cut the panel at the cut line to manufacture the 20 Watt panels for the Solar Display Case at a low cost of both materials and labor. Wholesale negotiations will bring down the costs of the panels and the waterproof cases which will make mass production more realistic. Geographically, most of the materials used in this project are located close together, meaning the panels can be shipped quickly from Japan to China where the rest of the assembly can take place if manufacturing was to be off-shored to further reduce costs. With some really rough calculations, a ~49% profit margin can be achieved at a $400 retail price point for a dual monitor model. 

 My mission is to create this product to fill a gap in the market. I want to design something that I myself can find value in and use everyday, something I can be proud of, something I can have a fun time making. At the end of this project I know I will be happy, even if I am the only person in the world with a Solar Display Case! ☀️

Links: 

F-WAVE Company Page

F-WAVE Technical Data

I am not affliated with or sponsored by F-WAVE or any other company, the only reason I am mentioning them by name is to be as open as possible about the development process and the prospective manufacturing options required for this project's consideration for the Hackaday Prize.

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