Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Continuing the Solar Panel Project - Building It

The main advantage of drawing up the solar panel project in CAD like I did is that I can get dimensioned drawings and then know the list of materials I need to get in order to build it. 
As you can see, the sides are about 36" long, the top and bottom pieces just under 20", and the uprights about 30".  No dimensions are critical - they'll be cut to final length later.

But what to build it out of?  It's certainly possible to use wood or whatever you're used to, but I'm leaning toward the elegant system sold by 80/20 Inc. "The Industrial Erector Set".  80/20 specializes in aluminum extrusions, but it is a system, not just parts, and they have everything you need to do just about anything with their extrusions.  They sell parts to make easy right angle joints, and other ways to join pieces.  They also give away a little piece of software that will help you determine whether your design is strong enough.  In my case, simple 1" square extrusion, their 1010 series, is plenty strong enough. It looks like this:
If they don't have a handy distributor that will sell to you, they run an eBay store where they sell "garage sale" items. 

No connection, no kickbacks, I couldn't care less if you did it this way, yada, yada, yada.  See my disclaimer on the right sidebar.


  1. Never heard of 80/20, but I *WILL* check them out.
    Thanks for the link!

  2. We use it at work to build fixtures for radars and stuff that doesn't use the standard mounts. You can cut a 1" extrusion on a woodworking miter saw, and put a frame together in no time. Really handy stuff.

  3. Thought I'd check back in and see what progress you were making.

    And now that I have my very own 80/20 catalog, I'm amazed at all the commerciial products see using their extrusions!