PRODUCT DESIGN | MECHANICAL ENGINEERING | SOURCING | PRODUCTION
PLUG & PLAY SOLAR PANEL
A solar panel which you simply plug in your socket and you’re done. No installation by expensive professionals that requires permanent infrastructural changes to your roof. A modular system which allows you to simply start with one and expand whenever you like.
The Dutch start-up Supersola introduces plug & play solar panels to make solar energy available and accessible to everyone. They contacted Studio Mango to take their original product to the next level
There was a lot of interest from energy companies and big retailers, but the system was too expensive. Supersola challenged Studio Mango to reduce manufacturing costs, improve ergonomics plus aesthetics, and make the product smaller to fit in the back of a car (to enable in-store purchases).
Place the Supersola on a flat surface and unfold the windshield.
Fill the ballast tanks with water and slide them back in the Supersola.
Put the plug into a grounded electrical outlet. Ready to go!
rethinking the product structure
The design of the first series was based on a big rotational moulded base that had to be filled with water to weigh the system down. For the assembly a large number of expensive custom metal components were required which took a lot of time to install.
After careful examination our engineers concluded that a revision of the complete system would result in cost optimization and improved usability. Instead of hinging the solar panel on the base, the new design integrated the tanks within the panel. This concept became the focal point for further development.
Additional ergonomic improvements were integrated in the design throughout the process. Dividing the large base into four smaller tanks with integrated handles was an important improvement. The tanks can be filled under a tap and easily slide in and out of the system.
advantages of other production techniques
To increase the cost efficiency of the Supersola, other production methods had to be used. The large rotational moulded base was replaced by a structure using extrusion profiles, injection- and blow moulded parts. These production methods significantly reduce the cost per part in mass production. In addition, these techniques provide more design freedom, which enabled us to integrate multiple functions into each part and enabled an improved overall appearance of the product.
Various prototypes, iterations of components and assembly methods have been tested, evaluated and improved. Several methods have been investigated for much faster and easier assembly.
sharp reduction in assembly time & costs
One of the main challenges to be overcome during design for manufacturing, was how to tackle the huge tolerance differences between injection- and blow moulding. Injection moulding has a tolerance well within tens of millimetres, but this is much larger for blow moulding. Thanks to the expertise of our engineers and close contact with our production partners, this could be taken into account early in the design and prototyping process to avoid problems and delays later on.
The result of all our efforts is an aesthetically improved, and easier to use ‘plug and play’ solar panel. With a 25% cost reduction on production components and a greatly decreased assembly time, it makes sales at the desired price point possible.