The age-old art of origami extends far beyond the adorable art of paper sculpture in grade school, and it has laid the groundwork for some cutting-edge breakthroughs in design and engineering. From space dwellings, boats, water bottles to camping furniture, origami techniques are used to create hardware that is small and works on demand. Utah startup Sego Innovations is now using it to make the most packable solar charger, with individual panels that compress to one-eighth of their size in about a second. Slide it into a backpack or suitcase and take renewable off-grid power with you wherever you go.
NASA in particular has used origami to impressive effect, applying it to a wide range of projects, from a James Webb mirror to small deployable robots to large telescope star coverIn 2013, NASA teamed up with Brigham Young University researchers to design a rocket-mounted solar panel that would compress during launch and expand to 10 times its original size once in space. BYU’s ongoing research into compliance mechanisms has led to other designs, including ballistic safety shields for law enforcement that have entered the market.
Sego, founded by three BYU grads with experience working on very NASA-compliant mechanism solar panel projects, is determined to bring space-saving design to Earth in the form of an easy-to-carry portable charger for travel , adventure, emergency backup and off-grid living. The launch model will feature an array of SunPower monocrystalline solar cells, providing 25 watts of charging in optimal sunlight conditions. The panels are precisely cut into triangular halves and quarters and reattached to the printed circuit board (PCB).
Sego panels are designed to be 7.5 inches (19 cm) square, just over an inch (2.5 cm) thick, and unfold into thin hexagonal panels with a simple two-hand pull. The expanded surface area is 2.56 square feet (0.24 square meters).
Sego protects the solar cells with an ETFE coating, making them IP67 weather-resistant, and supports them with a high-pressure fiberglass laminate substrate for a durable structure suitable for travel and outdoor use. A series of joints, hinges and magnets ensure seamless folding and installation.
Sego panels work with a stand that is hidden inside the fold-out panel for transport. Note that the two-leg stand that Sego advertises in its Kickstarter campaign is different and simpler than the tripod shown in the photo.
The back of the Sego panel has a charger module with a USB-C port that connects directly to a device that needs to be charged or to a portable power bank for storage. There is a single port there to link multiple solar panels together. Sego estimates charging times of 1 to 2 hours for a smartphone, 3 to 4 hours for a tablet, or 3.5 to 7 hours for a 10,000 mAh portable power pack, assuming optimal sunlight conditions.
The Folded Sego Panel is not small enough to fit in a shirt pocket, but fits easily in a backpack, duffel bag, cargo box or vehicle. It weighs an estimated 3 lbs (1.4 kg), which may be too much for an ultralight fast backpacker, but easy enough for the less weight-conscious backcountry (or backcountry) traveler.
Sego has developed a prototype but is still finalizing a production version, so retail specifications may vary. 25-W Sego Charger Available at Early Bird Launcher The pledged level is $289, which is $106 less than the planned MSRP of $395. Kickstarter backers seem to love it, pushing the campaign nearly 20 times its goal with more than $180,000 in pledges.
In addition to the standard model, Sego Innovations also offers a premium model with a carbon fiber substrate instead of fiberglass. It is said to be stiffer and lighter, weighing an estimated 2.5 lbs (1.1 kg). Prices for this version start at $475.
source: Shigao Innovation