Since it was brought to the general market, solar energy has faced significant challenges in terms of efficiency and affordability. The cost especially used to be a significant barrier to its adoption. In comparison to fossil fuels, solar energy used to be seen as the far more expensive option.
However, these days, it has become more affordable, and as a result, its adoption is increasing. Costs have plummeted, and its efficiency has risen at a steady pace. With the increase in demand, many companies, such as those that work with solar energy Miami, have adapted and converted to more affordable ways of manufacturing solar equipment.
Enter 3D Printing
Sometimes known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing is a process that allows you to make three-dimensional objects from digital files. A 3D printer essentially uses a nozzle to deposit a line of material, and it makes successive layers of that material until the desired object is complete. It’s an unconventional process of manufacturing things, and because of it, you could make a variety of complicated objects with it.
How 3D Printing Can Benefit The Solar Industry
Because of the versatility of the process and the products, it can create, 3D printing technology has been used in many different industries, such as aerospace and robotics. In the solar industry as well, the advancement of 3D printing has helped to make it more affordable and efficient, and it has led to a higher rate of adoption of solar technology. Though the cost of solar energy is still a bit too much for most families, normalizing the use of 3D printing in the industry could help change that.
That being said, there are various ways it could help make solar products more accessible. Here’s how 3D printing can bring the solar industry to the mass market.
- It Can Boost Efficiency
The use of 3D printing can increase efficiency in the solar industry in a number of ways. One of the more obvious ways is speed. Manufacturing solar panels with 3D printing take considerably less time than the traditional methods. Where it once would’ve taken hours to construct the cells of the panel, it can now be done in several minutes. This is especially helpful for companies that want to make different prototypes, as there would be no need for them to wait long for testing.
In terms of the materials used for production, 3D-printed solar panels are much more efficient to make than the standard panels. Solar panels are often made with minerals that are toxic when mined, which threatens the health of the soil around areas used for their excavation. Not only that, but the production of the panels themselves is quite costly. Experts in the solar industry have been looking for alternative methods of production, and 3D printing is the best answer for that. With it, you can create solar panels from different kinds of materials without worrying about compromising function.
In fact, 3D-printed solar cells are more advantageous than the standard photovoltaic (PV) cells often used in solar panels, as they’re able to absorb more sunlight than PV cells. Aside from weighing less and being less complex, 3D cells are much more precise. Because of this, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have claimed that 3D solar panels are about 20% more efficient than standard solar panels, seeing as they can absorb a greater amount of solar energy.
Given all these factors, the use of 3D printing technology will surely lead to more efficient solar panels. With a lower cost of production, companies will be able to mass-produce these panels with fewer resources while also providing consumers with a better alternative for absorbing more energy.
- It Can Make Smaller Solar Devices
Though solar energy is commonly seen as a power source for household purposes, the versatility of 3D printing could allow it to be used in various other ways. Given the preciseness of 3D manufacturing, it would be possible to create thin solar cells that are small enough and light enough to be attached to materials other than glass, such as on plastic or fabric. This would allow companies to consider the possibility of making flexible solar panels.
In turn, this innovation could boost the attractiveness of 3D-printed solar products. With lightweight and flexible 3D solar cells, it could pave the way for intriguing developments in other sectors, such as allowing solar spray to be used on commercial or residential structures. This would allow residents to harness solar energy without opting for the less unsightly option of having PV panels on their roof.
- It’s More Affordable
While the cost of using solar panels is primarily in the installation, 3D printing could help reduce costs in an equally significant area—manufacturing. By using 3D printing technology, companies that create solar panels could cut production costs by about 50%. Given how precise and controlled the process of 3D printing is, businesses would be able to do away with the waste that comes with traditional manufacturing. This saves them from wasting expensive materials, such as glass or poly-silicon.
In addition, because 3D printing can be done practically anywhere, companies would be able to acquire the solar products they need without having to rely on remote warehouses. This would help offset the high shipping costs they would have spent on transporting traditional PV cells.
The use of 3D printers has opened the door to the production of solar panels that are more efficient, less expensive, and more environmentally friendly. With this, companies may be able to mass-produce solar products at a smaller cost without compromising quality, which will in turn help boost the popularity and accessibility of solar energy.
About Manufactur3D Magazine: Manufactur3D is an online magazine on 3D printing. which publishes the latest 3D printing news, insights and analysis from all around the world. Visit our 3D Printing Education page to read more such informative articles. To stay up-to-date about the latest happenings in the 3D printing world, like us on Facebook or follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.