Retrofittable Solar Side Panel

CLIENT: Agricultural Equipment Manufacturer

INDUSTRY: Agricultural Equipment

The client is a long established manufacturer of electric fencing products. A new design was required to increase the battery charging capability for one of their existing energisers by adding additional solar panels. Hillside Product Design were commissioned to design a way of incorporating these additional solar panels with minimal changes to the existing product and with minimal tooling and no loss of functionality.

Fundamental aspects were first addressed using hand sketching. These explored various  methods of mounting two additional solar panels that could each articulate 180 degrees to allow for portability when folded in and then fold out for maximum solar panel surface area. This approach allowed the energiser to stay roughly the same size for purposes of portability and for shipping. As sketches were refined they detailed how the new design would aesthetically complement the existing design and the clients family of products. 

The new solar panels required a wired connection through to the electronics within the energiser. The connection would need to be maintained while solar panels are opened and closed without the wires getting damaged. Hillside Design created a custom flexible cable guide to route the cables into the energiser product. This enclosed the wires and provided the full freedom of movement required. The wired connection was achieved by making a small adjustment to the energiser tooling to provide screw clamping for the connecting wires and by making two machined holes into the enclosure to locate the flexible cable gland.

The side panels were designed for maximum rigidity and to be lightweight. As well as being light and rigid the side panels were designed to “clip” open, and “clip” shut when hinged. This provided haptic feedback for the user as well as holding panels open and preventing them from flapping in strong wind.  The solar side panel assemblies were designed to retrofit onto the body of the existing product by repurposing existing screw fixing locations. 

Several prototypes were built throughout the project and each was key to solving issues around product build, appearance, cable guiding and hinge performance. After the client approved prototype testing HPDL prepared 3D CAD files and 2D control drawings. HPDL oversaw the tooling and sign off which included implementing planned for adjustments to tune the click lock open and closing at their pre-set positions.