Pondering Why US Solar Installers are in the Red

Posted in Solar

Solar panel installation

It is obvious that the stock of US residential solar companies has been on the decline, with shares falling steadily over the past few years. Last week, SolarCity plumetted nearly 66% from their 52-week peak of US$ 58.87. SunPower, which has seen stocks tumbling continuously, is depressed nearly 75% from its 52-week high.

But when where the price of global PV components is at an all-time low and solar installations are burgeoning, the incongruity is strange. What is happening?

As mentioned by two finance executives who spoke with PV Tech, the problem hinges on the fact that residential solar firms are simply operating under "the wrong business model".

" If you look at the capital markets and all the corporations that are publicly-traded, they are not performing so well. I wouldn’t put each one of them in the same bracket but generally the industry is getting knocked down at a time where we see solar installs thriving, it is a very strange time in the history of the solar business," said Camilo Patrignani, CEO of Greenwood Energy.

" I think the underlying cause for it is that the residential solar companies are functioning under the wrong business model," he stated.

State Street Bank executive Santosh Raikar reiterated the same view to PV Tech: "Residential solar is still looking for a business model," he said. "For what it is worth, the reason why SolarCity experienced this acquisition and Vivint Solar and a number of other companies that are not doing as well as they should in a stable market environment, is because we don’t really know what business model works for residential solar at this point."

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Ref: pv-tech.org

3D Printed Plaster Cast to Replace Older, Itchier Casts

Posted in 3D Printing

Though plaster casts have long been an important tool for orthopaedic healing for centuries, they are not free of foibles. Sweat, dirt and restricted ventilation are known to cause not just discomfort but also infections. A 21st century 3D printed alternative is set to change all of that. MediPrint, a Mexican startup by UNAM University students has recently been involved in some impressive work on NovaCast, a 3D printed alternative for plaster casts. Weighing as much as ten times less than a plaster, NovaCast can also be washed, thus solving the long-standing problem of hygiene.

The material used for plasters is hygroscopic, absorbing sweat and providing bacteria a fertile ground owing to its lack of ventilation. In case of extreme scenarios, infections can result in loss of limb; sometimes bones are not able to heal properly due to badly placed plaster casts. Naturally, NovaCast offers a great alternative.


Source: Gizmag

Not only is NovaCast customizable, unlike plaster casts it doesn’t need to be removed while bathing. It leaves no room for bacteria to thrive. Interestingly, the cast is printed by generating by an algorithm as opposed to CT scan data usually used for 3D printing medical accessories. While this certainly saves on hardware costs for doctors, it also means medical professionals can focus solely on their patients and do not have to get their hands dirty with CAD and other software required for printing otherwise.

The NovaCast is a thin cast and can be printed in under four hours, depending on the size of the limb. While it is still in the developmental stage, the startup recently landed a major boost on fondeadora.mx, a crowdfunding platform, where it raised over $8,000 to expand its 3D printing capacity using a high volume 3D printer.

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3D Printed Robots Walk Their Way to Success

Posted in 3D Printing

Pushing the envelope a little further, a group of researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab has developed an ingenious method to 3D fully functional robots. The robots, which are made from both solids and liquids, require just a single battery and motor; they can then practically walk right off the printing table.

The team utilized a process they call “printable hydraulics” for the printing process, and hope to make a breakthrough in rapidly fabricating machines. For the process, researchers used a 3D Inkjet printer for dispersing materials measuring half the human hair. When printing the structure, the printer puts photopolymer material on the surface of the print, hardening it with a UV light while leaving the liquid portions untouched.

While building robots is largely a labour-intensive and time-consuming process otherwise, 3D printing offers a break from it. But, during the process, the researchers were not able to find a way of incorporating robust force-transmission elements into a 3D-printed object. After a lot of trial and error, they were able to place a useful liquid/solid combination for creating a functional robot in one go. The process produced a six-legged robot that can walk using the power of 12 hydraulic pumps printed inside it.


Source: 3ders

The 3D printing process lasted for about 22 hours. The team subsequently installed a battery and motor inside the robot which then allowed it to move on its own. MIT now plans to expand the scope of its innovative hydraulic printing technology and improve on the method to cut down the time required for the process.

Previously, 3D printing was only done with solid materials but the introduction of liquids into the process makes complex designs possible while cutting down on the time required.

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3D Printed Electronic Egg to Spy on Vulture Nests

Posted in 3D Printing

The International Centre for Birds of Prey (ICBP) recently expanded the scope of 3D printing technology to include the animal kingdom in the list of the beneficiaries. Using micro-controllers along with 3D printing, ICBP is trying to learn about an endangered species of vulture and what it needs to survive.

In a bid to prevent the extinction of the bird species, researchers have created 3D printed vulture eggs with hidden micro-controllers to pass off as real in a nest. ICBP partnered with Microduino for the venture, which specializes in Arduino compatible modules and micro-controllers.

After a lot of research and development, the Microduino team was able to produce a 3D printed vulture egg called EggDuino. The shell was made using SLS 3D printing with a PA2200 nylon material and contains a wood enclosure that holds the electrical components. The egg was then equipped with a Microduino core, a Bluetooth Low Energy module, a multisensor 10DOF module that included a gyroscope, accelerometer, a magnetic field strength sensor, and a barometer, fourteen DS18B20 temperature sensors, and a SHT21 humidity sensor. The egg module is powered by a 1800-miliampere/hour battery and is enabled with transmission of its data to a WiFi enabled Raspberry Pi.


Source: 3ders

When the 3D printed eggs are created and assembled, they are placed inside the vultures’ nests with the terminals placed away from the animals to receive data transmissions through Bluetooth. The terminal can also monitor weather conditions outside the nest and save its data. Using this innovative technology, researchers are able to use the printed eggs’ data to ascertain their temperature gradient.

Once the project is finalized, the ICBP will officially deploy its 3D printed eggs in India and Africa within the next month.

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3D Printed Device Detects Anaemia in Seconds

Posted in 3D Printing, CAD

Adding to 3D printing’s growing list of impressive feats, researchers at Kansas State University recently developed a 3D printed device that can detect anaemia within seconds. The low-cost diagnostic device works when paired with a smartphone app and is beneficial to people with only limited access to healthcare. It can also be a revolutionary point-of-care solution for the developing countries, where more than half the pregnant women and preschool children are reportedly anaemic.

The diagnostic device is made of 3D printed plastic slides that contain microfluidics. Users only have to add a drop of their blood on the slide and attach it to the smartphone. Within 60 seconds, the app can produce an accurate result using a color scale based test. Just as is the case with pregnancy and glucose tests, the process does not require a physician to make the diagnosis.

The device was developed by Kim Plevniak, a Master’s student in biological and agricultural engineering at the University and Mei He, assistant professor for the same course.

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Source: 3ders

The 3D printing technology has enabled the researchers to keep production costs low. The team spent over a year designing a relatively inexpensive 3D printed prototype for the device. Recently, they also won the approval to conduct clinical tests on patients from the University of Kansas Medical Center, allowing them to further improve on the device and optimize it for real-world diagnostic performance. They have also applied for an invention disclosure with the Kansas State University Research Foundation for the proof-of-concept device.

Once fully developed, the 3D printed device will help diagnose the disease and save millions of lives worldwide, proving the real-world applications of 3D printing yet again.

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