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This project was successfully funded on October 18, 2011.
Solar Panel Backing Board Prototype
Here are some pictures of the solar panel backing board that I've mentioned in the past. I just got the laser cut pieces back today, though it definitely needs a bit more work...
The backing board is a 1/4" thick piece of bamboo ply board that the solar panel can mount to, and serves two purposes: it adds a nice hard board to better protect the solar panel, and it adds more mounting options. The board has fourteen 1"-wide slits and four 1/4" holes, so that it could be strapped, tied, or bolted onto just about anything you can think of.
For the prototype, I epoxied the panel on there because the solar panels I have are early models that don't have the mounting holes, but in the final thing, the panels will be bolted on using binding posts.
Using bolts instead of epoxy to attach the panel to the board have a number of advantages. The main benefit is that the solar panel can easily be taken off the board, if the board isn't required. Or, in the unlikely event that the solar panel breaks, the board can be bolted onto a different panel and thus be reused. The bolts attaching the solar panel to the board will also have a little bit of play so that the board and panel can shrink or expand at different rates without stressing each other. Along a similar vein, if the board is dropped, the board will likely hit the ground before the panel (since it's bigger), and the shock may be absorbed before it transfers to the panel, which may help protect the solar panel.
The backing board also comes with a notched stick that allows the solar panel to be lifted up in 4 different angles. The stick also has a 1/4" hole at the bottom, so that a stick weighed down with some stones can help keep everything in place if used outside in windy conditions.
There are some tweaks that need to be made, but I think this could be a really nice addition to the kit for some folks, especially those of you who want the additional impact resistance and mounting options for outdoor use. I'm also considering a Lexan cover that can be bolted on, so that the solar panel is sandwiched between a thick bamboo board and a layer of highly impact resistant polycarbonate. Need less to say, the board will be completely waterproof (I'm considering using a bamboo ply that is supposedly dishwasher safe).
Anyway, as always, feedback is welcomed...
Note: Because this board did not exist when the Kickstarter campaign launched, the rewards were not priced to include this component. Since margins are already very thin, I likely will not be able to include this board in many of the reward levels. I can probably include it for the $250 and $500 levels, but it will likely be an additional option for the other levels (for the $115 level, it will count towards the one extra item).