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Solar Charger

winter 2012

Cat S-CRG 005

Form studio

Brief You have been hired by Caterpillar to design a biologically inspired portable solar charging device Your challenge is to capture both the form language of the brand while also capturing the motion or movement from a biological entity. The charging device will have two states: a closed storage state that must be, in some sense, portable, and an open state that must maximize its solar collecting surfaces.

FINAL GOALS: 1) Research the various solar technology as well as conduct your own field research.

2) Analyze your brand as well as their specific form language.

3) Look to biological entities for inspiration as to a form and movement of your product.

4) Use a combination of modeling and sketching explorations to develop a product.

5) Create refined drawings and final white models displaying the closed and open forms along with a breadboard model to show movement and function.

6) Document the entire process.

SOLAR TECHNOLOGY Knowing the technology and the competition is necessary in developing a cohesive and producible product. The initial research was made to enhance my own understanding of the capabilities and limitations of solar technology beyond my own preconceptions. Through my research I was able to find a variety of different solar cell production methods that could be used for different applications. The one I found most interesting was the crystalline solar cells, being the most expensive, but the most efficient solar technology available. Crystalline solar cells are expensive due to their necessity of the specified quality of silicone for use in solar technology as well as the refined and specialized production method. Because of this high cost, there are far fewer portable solar chargers using a crystalline solar cell. However, those who do utilize this technology have the most efficient solar chargers. In fact crystalline solar cells are used by the military and in most scientific endeavors where the efficiency of the solar chargers is important to the success of the mission.

Wenger Portable Solar Charger: 2.25W

Brunton Explorer Foldable Charger: 5W

GoalZero Elite Guide 10: 3.5W

Polycrystilline Cell

Polycrystilline Cell

Monocrystilline Cell

Time Location 3:15 DAC Statue Platform

Beyond simple fact checking research, it was also necessary to do field research first hand. The main purpose of this was to find the optimal angles for


generating electricity from this thin film solar cell. By hooking up the cell to a multi meter, we could collect and compare the voltage produced in a

Angle Direction 0 “ “ 45 “ 25 90 “ 45 “ 90 0 80 45 “

Towards Sun “ Towards Sun Towards Sun “ Away “ Away Towards Sideways “

V Notes 4.2 3.8 3.8 4.2 3.9 4.3 4.42 3.49 3.7 3.6 3.47 3.9 4 4.1 3.7

Clear Behind Direct Shadow Cloudcover Clear Cloudcover Clear Clear Cloudcover Clear Cloudcover Cloudcover Cloudcover Light Cloudcover Clear Cloudcover

1.98 1.89 1.6 2.55 2.9 2.04 2.85 1.7 2.78 3.1 2.1 2.8 1.9

Hallway Lights (No Windows) “ “ Heavy Clouds “ “ “ “ “ “ “ “ “

variety of different situations. An important find though all this was that while

3:40 2nd Floor Hall

there is an optimal angle, even when facing away from the sun, the diffused light will still generate a substantial amount of energy. This meant we could possibly have more freedom in setting the angles without entirely compromising efficiency.

2nd Floor West Window

3:45 7th Floor West Window

0 45 90 0 45 45 90 90 0 45 45 90 90

Towards Away Towards Away Towards Away Towards Away

BRAND ANALYSIS The CAT brand may be well knows, but to create a product for the brand, you must find to the roots of the company Having chosen CAT, I needed to go beyond my initial perceptions of the brand and do in depth research on what defines them as the leader in construction machinery. Through both first hand analysis, as well as an thorough research methodology, I came up with an appropriate brand image from which I could develop a product. CAT products are based around a need, and they create machines to fit a function. Straight and to the point, CAT does not bother with packing in features. Each machine is made for a purpose and serves its purpose, not with style, but with efficiency and ease. While defining the brand was the initial step, developing a form language was much more difficult. Having so much emphasis on function, CAT did not initially seem to have an aesthetic. But once again, careful research would uncover than the look of their machines was more than simply casings to their machinery, but that they maintained the look and feel of CAT as well. Through my research I chose three words to define the CAT brand: Functional, Durable, and Dependable.

These words cut to the core of how CAT designs their machines and products as well as the aspects of their machines that keep people coming back to them for their machinery needs.

FORM ANALYSIS: Besides just the message and production goals of CAT, they have created a distinctive form that communicates those same words. Here are a few examples of my form analysis.

Top: Basic geometry, designed around the function, used as the starting form. Expresses mass and durability.

Middle: Curved corners with a low radius used as a design accent to the generally geometric lines. Expresses movement and safety.

Bottom: The more curved designs maintain the general basic form, but add a smoother aesthetic to their overall form. Expresses beauty while maintaining the brand.

SYNTHESIS and inspiration With the research in mind, it was time to find sources of inspiration to form a final cohesive product concept Once the base research has been done, including the technology, the brand, the form, and the field research, we can once again broaden our horizons and look out to find new elements to create an interesting and unique product. That initial research allows me to have a context to put any possible inspiration I find from that point on. In this case, when seeing a movement or form I could ask myself, how could a solar panel use that to its advantage, or how can this be applied to make a product more portable. Because we have a context, we can look all around to almost anything and find some way it can relate to a potential product. But it is my job to find the most useful and most inspiring and synthesize it into a product. Looking to the biological world became a great help in finding useful movements and methods of expanding surface area as well as using protective elements that may be necessary in protecting the devices possibly fragile solar panels. The paperbark maple tree became a great source of inspiration, and, looking to draw the concept back to the brand, a second analysis of useful traits was very beneficial. On the opposite page are the two main sources of inspiration, from which the final product concept was formed.

PAPERBARK MAPLE The paperbark maple (Acer Griseum )is a species of maple native to central China. The bark is smooth and papery and has a tendency to peel over time. Its curling is the bark bending back naturally as it breaks from the tree. The thin bark surrounds the entire tree in layers and though it peels off of the mass of the tree, it curls back, in a slow and even motion.

MACHINERY TREADS The segmented, continuous tread is a staple in the Cat machinery line for those riggs that need the traction and grounding. The segmentation allows for free movement while being connected as a unit.

PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT With the back end done, and a concept down, it was time to develop and refine the idea to a finished product Taking from the research and the inspiration of the paperbark tree, my concept became that of a rolling solar charger that could essentially protect itself when rolled up, but also roll out for a large exposure, or roll back onto itself, exposing the panes but being contained in the same geometric cylindrical form. The body would also house a rechargeable battery that could be accessed by the outlet at the end. At left are sketches to show the original concept as well as models exploring the size of the final form. After determining the basic geometric proportions and size, it was time to refine each detail. The finger grip test models to the left were used to analyze comfortable sizes and shapes for unrolling the panels. The sketches on this page are all part of the refinement process of key details such as the outlet and its cover, the charge level button and the charge level indicator light. Each detail could have in impact on the overall form, so it was necessary to refine it so it became in integrated part of the product that still communicated what it was supposed to do and made it easy.

FINAL Solution This is the final product: The CAT S-CRG 005 With the concept determining much of the general form,


the process leading up to the final model varied mostly in

1) Research in solar technology determining that

size and the details.

crystalline solar cells are the most appropriate for CAT 2) Analyzing the CAT brand and form language

The proportional size of the bumpers was determined by utilizing the Fibonacci sequence equation principle and applying it to the form. This created a balance in the look and fit very well with maintaining a minimum surface area so the solar panel could work efficiently. The single outlet is raised from the bumper and then covered to form a tight seal, keeping out dirt and grime. The charge indicator

3) Finding inspiration and developing ideas, eventually coming upon the paperbark maple tree. 4) Creating concept sketches and a working model as the proof of concept and starting the form of the cylindric hexagon shape. 5) Refinement of the general form using a variety of modeling materials and methods as well as sketching

button became a formed button, fused seamlessly with the

explorations. This determined the proportions of

large bumper, but being made with a softer and flexible

bumpers and solar panels as well as the final size

rubber. The CAT S-CRG 005 is functional, durable, and

6) Refinement of curves, deciding on the best details and

dependable solar charger that could provide the much

determining the conceptual materials as well as creating

needed power to even the most remote locations that

finished models for form, breadboard models for motion

construction jobs and CAT machinery may go.

and use, and final sketches communicating details.

Summary The technology had to be the starting point. You must first know what you are working with before you can create a product around it. Then the brand must be analyzed. CAT in particular had to be especially scrutinized because while it may seem as though they simply make machines, after enough time spent looking through pictures and scouting out real life machines, it was apparent that even besides their signature yellow, CATs machines have a look that communicates their values and shows a certain level of quality that is important to maintaining their status as the top brand of construction machinery. From there was the development of the concept, where casting a wide net and seeing what you find, and then applying that past research until it all fits together. That process took a long time, the by the end it was worth it. With a concept in hand, the development and refinement would be what took it from being a quick thought, into being a product that the brand would be proud to present as their own. It was time to look at each element, create a solution, and then validate that it was appropriate. By scrutinizing every detail of the charger, I was able to create a product that would be effortlessly functional, strong and durable, and completely dependable. It could be used anywhere from the construction down the street, all the way out to the furthest reaches, always able to providing clean solar energy when needed.

Nicholas Lim - Solar Charger Process Book  

Product Design project by Nicholas Lim

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