Just ask the Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technology (Freudenberg-NOK) team involved in the development of a new clip being introduced this week at the Solar Power International Show in Dallas, Texas Oct. 18-20. The clip, which introduces new materials and faster, cost-effective assembly capabilities to the solar panel industry, grew out of a three-year effort by Freudenberg-NOK to move from a simple existing product to a visionary industry first.
The new patent pending solar panel retaining clip requires no mounting hardware and only two essential parts. Its ergonomic design includes a bolt-free, theft preventing fastening mechanism. Additionally, the solution offers a fast "two step" assembly, is compatible with industry standards and certifications, and because it is an engineered plastic, has endless design and system integration possibilities. The clip is being marketed under the company's Simrit brand and is on display at Simrit Booth #6831 at the show.
At the heart of this new clip are Freudenberg-NOK's advanced engineering capabilities and an innovative approach to product development that incorporates in-depth global trend analysis.
The company's advanced product engineering group relies upon collaborative spirit and communications to integrate employees with different specialties into project teams which explore the potential for new technologies, such as the plastic solar clip. The company's process for developing ideas starts with a trend analysis that looks at the global market, determines why customers are making certain decisions about a product and explores the future needs of the customers as well as the disadvantages of the product currently on the market.
"Most companies develop products as a reaction to current market needs but Freudenberg-NOK's advanced engineering group systematically assesses the existing market solutions, analyses the overall system function, and merges current and future requirements into a footprint that becomes the basis for innovative product development," said Jason Kohn, director of product pre-development with Freudenberg. "You have to talk and work together to come up with a solution. You have to talk with customers about their products and fully understand what they expect – from our product and their own.
"Our philosophy is that no existing product is ever good enough and can always be improved upon," he continued. "Our employees constantly strive to develop the next big idea, and our innovative, plastic solar panel retaining clip is just one example of the power of Freudenberg-NOK's advanced product engineering process."
Like all Freudenberg family companies, Freudenberg-NOK embraces a culture of innovation and provides employees with the time and resources needed to pursue that next big idea. Validation and trend analysis play a crucial role in the process. The advanced product engineering group assigns employees to evaluate new technology trends – doing search engine analysis, using Google, talking with consultants, reading white papers, researching the competitors and attending research and development conferences. The results of these studies influence how the company improves current products and pursues new market opportunities.
In developing the plastic solar clip, for example, Freudenberg spent months meeting with customers to learn how they use standard metal clips, what challenges they present to the industry and how new materials and designs might solve those challenges. Lead engineer Armin Barth lead this effort and also worked closely with material suppliers to validate what kind of plastic could be used in development of a new solar panel retaining clip.
"It would take 30 years to test the solar clip in real-world conditions so we worked very closely with our materials department and suppliers to insure that the best material was selected based on rigorous laboratory testing," said Barth. "Real life data was obtained and paired with this testing to ensure that our product is ready for the field."
Ultimately, Barth and the advanced engineering team consolidated its research into development into this solar industry first.
"We look at what we can offer the customer to convince them to leave the path they're currently on," Kohn said. "We show them why our technology is superior. We are not afraid of being the first to try something new and demonstrate why it's better. A solar retaining clip made of plastic? I am sure the automotive industry asked the same thing about plastic bumpers at one point in time."
Solar Power International 2011 (SPI), presented by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), is designed to serve and advance the solar power industry and draws more than 24,000 professionals representing over 128 countries. SPI '11 takes place Oct. 17 - 20 at the Dallas Convention Center.
About Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies
Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies is the Americas joint venture between Freudenberg and Company in Germany and NOK Corporation in Japan. Founded in 1989 under the legal name Freudenberg-NOK General Partnership, Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies is a leading producer of advanced sealing and elastomeric technologies for a variety of industries including automotive, aerospace, appliance, diesel engine, agriculture, construction, heavy industry, and alternate energy. Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies is headquartered in Plymouth, Mich., and has facilities throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Malaysia. With annual revenues approaching $US 1 billion, the company employed approximately 4,200 people in 2010. For additional information, please visit www.freudenberg-nok.com.
Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies is part of the Freudenberg & Co. Group of Germany. Freudenberg & Co. is a family of companies specializing in seals and vibration control technology, nonwovens, filtration, lubricants and release agents and other specialty business areas. The Freudenberg Group generated sales of more than $7.13 billion and had 34,000 employees in 2010. For additional information, please visit www.freudenberg.com.
Simrit is part of Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies and offers an extensive portfolio of precision-manufactured products for the aerospace, agriculture, appliance, construction, energy, fluid power, mechanical power generation, mechanical power transmission and recreational markets. Simrit's global sales exceed $1.3 billion. For more information, visit the Simrit website at www.simrit.com.
SOURCE Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies