The world's first automated solette breaker, Pocket Pages, and a CONCERT
The sun is shining down on Hong Kong. Tomorrow, Shawn is heading up to Dongguan, in Southern China to meet with the owner of a microsolar factory and talk about our efforts to automate the production of microsolar, and what it means for the industry in Southern China. We've met with a lot of factories, and this particular made a great impression on us as one of the best-run factories in the business. They still use traditional processes, but they're serious about making good microsolar panels, and that show clearly on their assembly line, in the way they do business, and in the finished panels they make.
I was going to go on this trip, but the China visa agent took one look at my eight year-old passport, still valid, but creased and worn, and pushed it back across the counter with the kind of disapproving face you get after swallowing a gallon of vinegar, refusing to put a visa in a passport as beat-up as mine. So, I'm sitting this one out.
We've actually heard a lot from the microsolar factories we know. We sent out links to the campaign to all our microsolar contacts, figuring it was good for them to hear about our efforts directly from us. We've had a mixed bag of reactions. Some factories, who we've worked with on a couple products, have stopped talking to us completely, and won't return our emails or calls. Others are curious by skeptical, others are excited, and our feel is that everyone is watching to see if we can actually do something. One thing's for sure--word travels fast around the microsolar world. Nobody cares too much about what we're doing, now, because we're not actually making and selling panels with our machine. We've got lots of theories about how other people in the microsolar industry will respond once we flip the switch on the Solar Pocket Factory. We'll see what happens, soon enough.
In other news, Yowza! Based on our backing so far, we need to make 69,500 solettes to fulfill the backer rewards, and thousands more every month for testing out the Solar Pocket Factory. Currently, we order our (relatively expensive) solettes for testing from a solar supplier in Shenzhen, and they're scored by laser and broken up by hand. Scoring and breaking the solettes is the beginning of the process, and if we're going to automate this process, make cells cheaply, and not spend the next month snapping a solette every second, twenty-four days a day, we need to find a better way.
So, we popped open notebooks and whiteboards and CAD, and we kicked around a bunch of ideas. Alvin is a mechanical engineer who just started working in Shawn's lab a few weeks ago, and he had an idea for a very simple solette breaker that worked a lot like a paper cutter. So he talked it over with everyone, drew up a design, and yesterday, got all the parts in and put it together. To everyone's delight, it worked! We were all sitting around the world's first automated solette breaker, watching crisp, broken solettes rain down from the breaker.
It's not a perfect breaker--there's still a lot that needs to be adjusted by hand, it's prone to snapping solettes, especially if they're not scored reliably, and the solettes all come out in a pile, rather than in a way we can easily move to the next stage of the factory. Still--it's cranking out solettes at a record clip. Here's a video of it breaking a scored cell, snapping off a solette every half second. Flippin sweet!
Are you hungry for more updates and nitty-gritty details about what we're up to? Check out our project blog at SolarPocketPages.com for the latest stories and musings from the center of the sun. Some of our latest posts:
Finally, a wonderful artist, poet, singer and all-around kickass lady, Feanne Mauricio, is putting on a concert for us in Manila this Sunday. If you're in the area, check it out! We've never had anyone put on a concert for us before, and we keep staring at this poster and saying, "whoah. Awesome!"
DEFINITELY stay tuned for video. Now--I must run! There's code and emails and stories to be written and chunks of aluminum to be cut into smaller chunks. We've got eight days left in this campaign, so help spread the word--next stretch goal is at $100k, and if we hit that, we'll design and open-source the low-cost lasercutter we use in the Solar Pocket Factory. Tell your goldfish!
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Take us out to lunch--Inventors gotta eat. Lots of famous kickstarter-ers put up rewards where you can pay $10,000 to get lunch with them. We're not that famous, so instead, _you_ can buy _us_ lunch. Give us whatever you feel like, and in your message to us, tell us the fanciness level of the restaurant we should go to. We'll take a picture of us eating the cheapest thing we can buy and send it to you. If you're in Manila or Hong Kong, come eat with us!Estimated delivery:
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140 backers All gone!
Early Bird Special--Our first 140 backers get a whopping 28% off our kit. This is the same Solar Pocket Kit you see below, but at a low low price for our early backers. Look at you! You're punctual, excited about solar energy, and you've got great taste in shoes. You really oughta reward yourself with a kit to make solar panels. And, international shipping is included!Estimated delivery:
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The Solar Pocket Factory Book--Read the story of our next year as we work to change the way the world makes small solar panels. Chock full of dreams, designs, plans, stories, freaks, We want to open up not just the invention itself, but talk about the people and motivation behind the invention, the different tacks we try to get the thing to work and to bring our idea out into the world. Now with more truth! Free shipping, anywhere in the world.Estimated delivery:
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The Solar Pocket Shield--This shield is the easiest way to use cleantech to power your arduino project. This is an assembled and tested shield that harvests energy using a built-in solar panel, providing a constant 5V to your arduino while storing excess charge in a built-in battery. Just plug it into your arduino and the shield takes care of the rest!Estimated delivery:
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The Solar Pocket Kit--This kit comes with everything you need to make your own solar panels quickly and easily. Convert all your portable electronics to solar power, come up with your own solar creations, and just experiment with making solar panels. Every kit has an assortment of pre-cut solar cells, glue to assemble strings of the cells, waterproof covering for your panel, a length of copper tape and small magnets. Free international shipping!Estimated delivery:
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Double pack--Solar invention is more fun with two! Get two Solar Pocket kits and save $10. Give one to a friend and make some solar panels together! Nothing says friendship like sunshine and silicon! Free international shipping!Estimated delivery:
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Solar Experimenter's Kit--This is everything you need to make your own solar panels from scratch and explore the potential of the power they produce. Each pack includes a Solar Pocket kit with everything you need to make your own solar panels, as well as an assortment of stuff to power off solar--high-powered LEDs, a transistor radio, a DC motor, assorted phone charge cables (not for smart phones--if you're interested, check out our solar phone charging kit below), and a nickel metal-hydride battery pack. The kit also comes with a manual with step-by-step instructions showing how to build your panels and run experiments. Perfect for classroom activities, science fairs, and just experimenting with solar on your own. Every kit comes with trace amounts of our DNA! The free shipping fairy will bring these kits to your doorstep.Estimated delivery:
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Sunlover's package--For people who love to make solar, we're bundling our standard Solar Pocket Kit with a large assortment of extra solar cells. In addition to everything that's in the kit, this package includes one hundred of our standard pieces, and fifty pieces each of our thin and stout pieces. Make solar projects galore! Free international shipping is part of the deal.Estimated delivery:
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Solar Phone Charge Kit--Keep your phone charged with solar you built from scratch! This is a bundle of our Solar Pocket kit, a high-capacity Lithium-ion battery and a Seeed Studios' LiPo Rider Pro circuit. The Solar Pocket kit has everything you need to make your own solar panel, and the LiPo Rider circuit board comes pre-assembled and takes care of charging up a lithium battery and providing a regulated power output that can power most iPhones, Galaxy, Blackberry, and other Smartphones . The LiPo Rider outputs to a female USB port that can accept any USB charge cable--you supply your own cable and phone. And you just _know that shipping is gonna be free, anywhere in the world.Estimated delivery:
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The "I love what you're doing and want all of it!" reward -- You get the Solar Phone Charge Kit and a copy of our book, fresh off the presses. Additionally, we will send you an eight by ten color glossy photograph of the machine you help create, signed robotically by the Pocket Factory. The Phone Charge Kit ships in February '13, and the book ships in September 2013. As always, free international shipping!Estimated delivery:
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Classroom kit--get three Solar Pocket kits and two Solar Explorer kits, enough for ten students to simultaneously tinker and discover new things about solar! Free international shipping!Estimated delivery:
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5 backers All gone!
Friend Of The Sun!--You get the solar charge kit, the book, AND we will write a song in your honor and program the pocket factory's stepper motors to play a digital solo. You can choose from the following premises for the song: (a) what your life would be like if you were a viking, (b) if you were an astronaut, how you would deal with loneliness, or (c) an instrumental electronica piece based on mapping the frequencies from a 2D fourier transform of your facebook profile photo to different scales, played entirely by the Pocket Factory Actuator Orchestra. We include a youtube video of the Pocket Factory playing the song and a printed poster of the algorithmically generated source code that creates the music.Estimated delivery:
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2 backers Limited (3 left of 5)
Solar Sea Haiku! -- We mail you an electronic, solar-powered plush sea animal shouting a mildly obscene yet flattering haiku written about you in a language that you do not speak. Also, you get a Solar Phone Charge Kit and a copy of the book, but really, you're in it for the offensive solar-powered stuffed octopus. (sea creature plush toy is at our discretion; a haddock, mantis shrimp, coho salmon, and octopus are all under consideration)Estimated delivery:
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1 backer All gone!
Make Your Mark On Solar--For the first year of Solar Pocket Factory production, you'll get a 1" x 1" space on the back of every panel we ship, and you can fill that space with any image, pattern or text you wish (must be classy). We'll be laser-marking the backs of each solar panel the pocket factory produces to mark down the power output and quality check of the panel, and we'll use this same laser to mark down the image you provide, as well. Naturally, you also get the Solar Phone Charge Kit, a signed copy of the Solar Pocket Factory Book, and something pretty and undisclosed.Estimated delivery:
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0 backers Limited (5 left of 5)
World's Best Solar Pocket Party!! We will bring the Solar Pocket Factory to any city, village, or pastureland on this wonderful planet of ours. And we're gonna rent out that pastureland, apartment, industrial building, or airplane hanger (depends on location). And we're gonna throw a two-day solar energy party unheard of since Helios drank so many photons he had to change his name to Apollo. But this isn't just about glorious solar bacchanal. We're gonna have a fully operational Solar Pocket Factory as a centerpiece after all, and that means we are making some solar panels. One hundred solar smartphone chargers to be exact. Made of old bottles of whiskey, 3D printed cases, coasters, potted plants -- solar craft in one giant make, with the Solar Pocket Factory. Oh, and one more thing--Here's where it will take a true visionary, a true humanitarian, and true lover of the sun to grab this reward: All the party goers are gonna paint the town solar. That means we are going to take those 100 solar chargers made in the party and peel-and-stick them around your city. Think solar charging utility, rising from the crowd! Bike racks, lamp posts, friendly coffeeshops -- wherever we can add a solar charger, we will in one glorious night of solar sharing. The idea is these chargers will be geotagged so that people in your town can find them whenever they need a charge. It's a giant experiment in solar power, flashmob-style. Invite up to a fifty of your closest friends -- you have to provide your own transportation and we will provide the rest. We'll be your hosts and help ensure everyone makes a functioning charger and gets them into town for all to benefit from -- and has a weekend to tell their kids about. And we'll provide all the accoutrements that come with a party of this magnitude. + some surprises. We may be geeky, but we know how to throw invention parties. Search "TacoCopter Party" for reference. This reward can be fulfilled anytime between June - Dec 2013; we will do our best to match your schedule request, but message us if you have a very specific date in mind right now so we can confirm it will workEstimated delivery:
- (30 days)