Can solar panels be 3D printed

Solar energy and 3D printing

Earlier this year, John J. Licata, Energy Strategist at Blue Phoenix, an independent research and consultancy focused on advanced power generation, wrote about 3D printing and solar power.

Licata sees the possibility that 3D printing could revolutionize the solar industry as well. He sees the reason for this in the fact that there is currently a great shortage of energy stores. This, combined with manufacturing inefficiencies, has dampened the mood in the solar industry. That is why the future production of solar cells must be sustainable. That led him to shed light on the significant potential of 3D printing for the solar industry.

For example, a 3D printer could produce solar components based on a 3D CAD volume model with additive manufacturing. Layer by layer, these could be created from a wide variety of materials.


In fact, John J. Licata believes that it is possible that 3D printing will usher in a paradigm shift in solar energy. The reason for this is that 3D-printed solar cells weigh less than conventional photovoltaic solar cells. In addition, if the material copper-indium-gallium-diselenide (CIGS) - more accurate. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) believe 3D solar panels could be around 20% more efficient than flat-plate panels.

In addition, they would be cheaper to manufacture. It is estimated that the current high Production costs could be reduced by 50 percent. High-priced materials such as glass, polysilicon and indium no longer have to be wasted because 3D printers work precisely and only the material that is actually needed is processed. There is hardly any waste.


In addition, there is the possibility of on-demand printing: This eliminates transport costs - because production can take place directly on site. As a side effect, there are also no storage costs. The low weight of the very thin 3D solar cells would have the advantage that they could be printed on untreated paper, fabric or plastic instead of expensive glass.

Flexible solar cells with a very low weight could also gain far-reaching importance for wearable high-tech clothing, radios and electronics of the future.

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Petra Fastermann founded Fasterpoly GmbH in Düsseldorf in 2010, which offers 3D printing as a service and also sells self-developed products under the Fasterpoly brand. In November 2011, Petra Fastermann was awarded the NRW Entrepreneurship Letter for her start-up company.

In July 2012 she published a specialist book on 3D printing / rapid prototyping in Springer-Verlag. In the same winter she published another book on the subject with “The makers of the third industrial revolution: The Maker Movement”. Springer also published the book “3D Printing” in 2014, an easy-to-understand explanation of the technology. There are also several books on fiction by the author.