TECSI Tests Show Origami Steel PV Module Frame Outperforms Aluminum


Origami Solar, developers of a patent-pending steel solar module frame, has published initial test results from TECSI Solar that confirm the Origami roll-formed steel frame design is superior in performance to conventional aluminum frames.

The testing conducted at TECSI Solar compared a 35 mm tall Origami steel frame against a 40 mm aluminum frame under identical conditions and using identical PV laminates. Steel frames were tested for compression strength to support typical top clamp loads, which could result in frame buckling or laminate breakage.

The Origami steel frame significantly outperformed the taller aluminum frame in frame wall rigidity, structural stability, and total deflection, even at a 150 psf load. Most importantly, the solar active components of the PV laminate were far better protected from possible damage as validated in EL imaging tests done during testing.

When comparing mechanical load performance, the Origami steel frame again outperformed standard aluminum frames – including being able to withstand upforce loading to 135 psf.

The Origami steel frame maintained laminate rigidity better than aluminum, better protecting the solar cells from cracking under downward loading. It was also tested for top-clamp and bolt-mounting installations, proving compatibility with existing racking systems.

Switching from aluminum to steel module frames would bring tremendous benefits to the solar industry. Solar panel costs are rising after decades of reductions, due to long and expensive supply chains struggling with increased demand. A shift to steel frames would greatly reduce supply chain concentration risks and help stabilize prices by enabling large-scale domestic manufacturing. Steel also reduces production-related GHG emissions by 87%, according to a recent report published by Boundless Research.

“The Origami roll-formed steel frames proved to be durable, resilient, and able to surpass the performance of typical aluminum frames under real-world rail-attached test conditions. The frames did a better job of protecting the laminate from cell crack initiation and propagation, which is critical to reliable long-term energy production. Our office has concluded that the Origami steel frame is a suitable candidate for consideration to replace extruded aluminum PV module frames and can provide significantly better performance if properly designed,” says Samuel Truthseeker, founder and principal Engineer at TECSI Solar.

Origami Solar is a finalist in DOE’s American-Made Solar Prize competition, which will be awarded in September. The company uses a steel roll forming process that creates a frame with intricate folds. Origami’s patent-pending design, combining innovative engineering and deep knowledge of the capabilities of precision roll-forming and utilizing domestically available recycled steel, delivers performance that equals or exceeds that of aluminum frames, while lowering material costs. This innovative module frame is readily manufacturable and will meet or exceed all UL and IEC standards.

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