Solar Pocket Factory May Bring Solar Panel Creation Into the Home

August 21, 2012 by Jeff Shepard

Two young inventors, Shawn Frayne and Alex Hornstein, are working on making table-sized automated factories which produce tiny solar panels. The young men envision their Solar Pocket Factory churning out a solar panel every 15 seconds, which would be competitive with normal-size factories in China. Frayne and Hornstein are hoping to raise $50,000 on the crowd-funding website Kickstarter to finish their prototype and prepare for a product launch in 2013.

After six months of development, the pocket factory can make a new panel every 15 seconds. According to their calculations, that means that just one of the mini factories can power up to 1 million devices a year. And ideally, it won’t create as much waste as current technologies on the market. Frayne and Hornstein also envision their small cells lasting longer than the usual five-year lifetime most companies give their microsolar panels.

The duo’s thin-panel design can fit on the back of a playing card and be adapted to charge just about any small piece of technology, from toys to cellphones. They’ve also started releasing videos detailing how to make your own solar-charging station for cellphones and other battery-powered goods.

According to Frayne and Alex Hornstein’s Kickstarter website, "We figured that if we could automate the production and testing, we could save about 25% of the cost of a panel. Precise, repeatable assembly and automated quality testing could cut down on the number of panels that have manufacturing defects and help us rework the ones that do, further decreasing our costs. We could put some of those savings into using high quality materials, so our panels will last longer and gather more light. As an end result, we could make microsolar panels about 30% cheaper than the existing panels and make them last five times longer in the sun.

"So we got to work. we’ve spent every cent we can scrounge building a Solar Pocket Factory, a small, automated machine that can make solar panels anywhere in the world, at a pace and quality that beats a sprawling factory. We work with a small team of brilliant people from around the world who put their own inspiration into this machine, improving and refining it. Our baby is getting pretty good, now, cranking out solar panels and doing it right. But if we want to impact the world of solar, we need to scale up to get our panels out of our workshops and into people’s hands. And we want to do that with kickstarter, making this the first crowd-funded advance in clean technology."

So far Frayne and Hornstein have raised a little over $30,000 of their $50,000 goal in just a few days. If funded next month, the money will go toward creating the first fully functioning pocket factory.