Our Custom Solar Design Process

Posted on 11/03/2020 at 12:00 by Samuel Jones

 Our Custom Solar Design Process Title Graphic

Inspiration can strike at a moment’s notice. 


One minute you're at a cafe sipping coffee and reading a magazine when all of a sudden, the lightbulb turns on, and your next great product idea is born. 


While creativity is crucial to a successful product, equally important is a process that leads to efficient development, shipping on time, and delighting customers.


PowerFilm’s solar technology and capabilities are versatile, allowing us to provide custom solutions across multiple industries and markets, including military, transportation, IoT, and many others.


Solar design can be a bit overwhelming, but over the past 32 years, we have designed a process that makes developing your next product collaborative and cost-effective.


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Concept Development


group working together to design a product


What a solar solution looks like depends mostly on power and environmental requirements. 


How much energy does your device consume? 


The blog posts below describe how to put together a power budget and characterize devices’ power consumption.


How To Size A Solar Panel For Your Battery


Calculating Your Power Budget


What Makes a Wireless Protocol Low Power?


How does the application environment affect a solar solution? 


The blog posts below describe critical environmental factors to consider during concept development. 


Outdoor vs. Indoor Solar: The Key Differences


Seasonality of Solar


How Does Partial Shading Affect Different Types of Solar Panels


Benefits of Single Cell Solar Designs


Taking all of these factors into account will provide insight into the right solar technology, size, and characteristics needed for your application.


Our standard products can offer a great starting point and expedite the custom design process. 


For low power applications, our Electronic Component panels and Development Kits are an excellent start. These small and medium-size panels currently serve many indoor and outdoor IoT solutions, replacing or extending battery life.


For medium-high power applications, check out our high-efficiency semi-flexible solutions. These panels currently serve many transportation, marine, and other fixed and semi-permanent mount applications. 


For ultra-rugged, shade-tolerant, lightweight, and portable applications, our thin-film Foldable and Rollable products are a great fit.


With so many different types of IoT devices and low power electronics, we don’t always have a standard design that fits the bill. Luckily, we are well suited to produce custom panels of many different sizes and shapes. 


Our Custom Solar Panel Design Tool is a convenient way for developers to get an idea of the different sizes and options available. 


Finally, our expert engineering staff designs/consults on all aspects of a solar power solution, including charge controllers, Power Management ICs (PMIC), storage elements, and optimizing device power consumption. 


During this stage, PowerFilm works with the customer to go over everything the solution may need both electrically and mechanically.


Design Review 


amorphous silicon thin-film electronic component solar panel design drawing


The next step is to use all requirements and information gathered during concept development to create and propose a solar solution. During this phase, we define all relevant panel characteristics that meet your unique application needs, including size, shape, PV technology, flexibility, substrate, mounting mechanism, wiring, connectors, contacts, electronics, weatherproofing, surface finish, aesthetics, testing, and more. 


This generally takes the form of a 2D CAD drawing of the panel concept with defined electrical and mechanical specifications. Design proposals also include prototype and production pricing and any engineering time required for the project. 


You can review, ask questions, and offer changes or modifications until you are satisfied with the design proposal.




solar powered e-display

*Photo courtesy of Plastic Logic


After approving the design proposal, PowerFilm engineers begin building and assembling functional prototypes. 


Depending on the design, prototypes may be ‘built by hand’ and not look exactly like the production unit. Changes between prototype and volume production are clearly defined in the product proposal.  


Prototype assembly usually takes 2-3 weeks for simple builds but could take longer for more intricate designs or custom material. 


Field Testing


man looking at a tablet with 3D data graphics


With functional prototypes complete, testing in the application environment is critical in determining a solar solution’s performance. 


Things to test and verify include: 

  • Adequate power generation under expected and variable conditions

  • Ease of installation

  • Viability of weatherproofing (if required)

  • Thermal stability

  • Power consumption of the end device

  • Mechanical stability and function 


Pilot Production


hand trimming an amorphous silicon thin-film solar panel


Pilot production allows us to refine the manufacturing of your specific design and prepare for volume production. 


During this stage, we test and tweak new equipment, jigging, handling, packaging, and processes related to the solar design. 


Larger scale field testing is incorporated into this step, which can catch variation issues and resolve them before launching the product at scale. 


Volume Production


robotic arm picking up an amorphous silicon thin-film solar panel


This is the last step in the design process, but the innovation never ends. 


Once your solar solution enters production volume, we continually refine our processes to manufacture solutions better and more efficiently. 


We provide the best possible solutions for our customer’s needs. As we expand our technical capabilities, we continue working with customers on next-generation products and enhancements to current designs. 


Product ideas can hit you anytime, anywhere. When they do, you need a team that’s ready to take your brainchild from concept to reality.


Working with us will help you get to market faster without stifling your creative vision.


Custom solutions are our business and have been for the past 32 years. 


Are you ready to take the next step in your product’s journey?


Contact us, and let’s get started today.


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Categories: Solar Education