PROBLEM TO BE SOLVED:
A major toy manufacturer in the United States approached PHOTON TECHNOLOGIES in 1998 with two design parameters:
1-Power a motorized toy building product with a small solar panel (used "inside" under common incandescent lit rooms.
2-Provide a solar panel that would withstand the abuse inflicted by curious and active kidís hands.
Most any solar panel can directly power a small DC motor. The problem here is to design a solar panel that is inexpensive, yet powerful enough to not just operate the small DC motor under inside incandescent illumination (typically a desk lamp) but also be able to "start" the motor too. Typically it takes at least 50% more current to get the motor running from a dead stop, than it takes to keep the motor running.
This is a balance of solar cell size (which determines the current (mA) output and the number of solar cells wired together in series (which determines the voltage output).
>See our link to voltage and current.
Additionally, the client needed not only to spin a small DC motor, but also to operate a number of mechanized parts which operated from the motor. This increased the load, especially since the various parts were plastic and did not have smooth bearing surfaces to allow easy movement.
Unlike many of the flat solar panels that we had produced in the past, this application demanded that the panel could not be "bent" by the child. This would break the delicate solar cells and cause warranty returns. The resulting design of the solar panel was not just a flat panel but a "solar tray" made of fiberglass reinforced polycarbonate with a structural ribbing on the back to add strength without adding weight and raw plastic cost. Additionally, we designed a simple jack to allow the child to plug and unplug the solar panel from the toy.
The solar panel was designed electrically to properly operate the product and to survive rough handling but the child.
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