This article starts with general principles applicable to all industries
and then discusses special considerations for renewable energy, which needs major
Value of Scalability
Having scalable products are essential and necessary for:
• Growth and,
• Surges in product demand, which can be caused by:
• Sudden sales surges from good publicity,
advertising, or promotions
• Need to quickly replace problem products because of bad publicity,
recalls, sudden appearance of rival products etc.
• Cope with supply chain shortages, which can be avoided by designing
for availability which is helped by
automatic resupply techniques; see
• Emergency replacement demands from severe weather damage
Key principles to design scalable products include:
Design for manufacturability to ensure that
scaled-up production will not be limited by
• skill demands
• unnecessarily tight tolerances that create too much demand
on precision machine
tools or skilled labor
• inadequate fixtures, tooling, and processing equipment,
that should have been concurrently engineered
• firefighting to solve manufacturability, quality, or ramping issues
Select parts and materials for assured availability for the life
of the product at the highest possible product volumes. This includes avoiding:
• Potentially scarce parts, including any that may
have to compete with other application that may also be scaling up, for
instance, for widespread conversion to renewable sources of energy, electric
battery production capacity may be best allocated to electric cars and roof top PV
panels, instead of storing energy at wind power and solar PV fields, both of which have better
and cheaper alternatives (pumping water up for hydraulic storage for wind
and Concentrated Solar Power with heat storage)
• Rare Earth elements, which, when available, may provide the best
efficiencies, function, or compactness, for instance, the lightest and smallest
motor magnets. Scalable design principles would recommend generating "plan
B" contingencies, like providing enough space and weight allocation for
their non-rare-Earth-element magnets.
Avoid dependence on scarce product equipment capacity for
poorly designed parts that can not be build on ordinary machine tools, for
instance, large weldments that must be machined after welding on scarce mega-machine tools.
The scalable alternative would be to replace large weldments with precise parts that can be
made on ordinary CNC machine tools and assembled rigidly and precisely using DFM techniques
• Be cautious about dependence on “fabs” that cost billions and take years to
build, which may be hard to scale quickly.
• Avoid excessively expensive components that may be cost a high premium
for the last few percent of efficiency, which may have been important to
squeeze the last bit of energy out of expensive fuels. However, solar and wind
power are based on “free’ fuel, so the equipment goals must
shift from expensive efficiency to much lower manufacturing cost and
scalability. Large, expensive high-efficiency steam turbines designed for large
fossil fuel plants, may be unduly penalizing Concentrated Solar Power by forcing
solar fields to be too large, which requires more funding, complicates site
acquisition/approval, and may exceed power transmission capacities. See
Scalability Principles Conclusion;
Products and concurrently engineered processes should be develop to be
that can achieve the following forms of scalability:
• Volume Growth scalability:
The featured article in the November 2013 in Mechanical Engineering (the
journal of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers), titled “Why
Manufacturing Matters,” concludes that:
“The companies that scale the latest technologies the
will become the market leaders and reap most of the profit.”
Products and production systems should be designed to scale production volume quickly by designing for
all aspects of manufacturability:
• Scalable products are designed around proven off-the-shelf parts and modules that are selected to be readily
available throughout the anticipated lifespan of the product to avoid
dependence on parts that are hard to get, have long lead-times, incur high
inventory carrying costs, or may become unavailable within the lifespan of the
• Scalable designs are not based on parts whose availability is
limited by hard-to-expand production capabilities, like electronic parts
and semiconductor devises, whose production capabilities are limited,
but would be hard to expand because their factories ("fabs") cost
billions of dollars and years to expand.
- Scalable production is not constrained
by constrained by skill shortages or related quality shortcomings.
Scalable products have custom parts built by
vendor/partners who help the OEM
to design their parts for manufacturability, quality, and fast
ramps on widely available machine tools from
widely available materials on without setup delays.
• Scalable products
are designed for quick and easy assembly without the need for firedrills, tribal
lore, scarce resources, and skill and judgement, all of which make production
hard to scale up production volumes because of the difficulty finding and
training these resources.
• Scalable products are
designed for manufacturability at the research stage. It
not, then they will have to be
to preserve the "crown jewels" and essentially redesign everything
around them for manufacturability for rapid deployment. Again, quoting the ASME journal article:
“Firms that scale and deploy innovations rapidly
will remain market leaders.”
• Scalable products are built on concurrently engineer production equipment and tooling suitable for
initial demand and easily scalable to the highest anticipated demand.
• Build scalability:
Versatile architecture should be designed to allow anticipated order
variation to be built quickly and cost-effectively based optimized modularity on
a versatile platform
• Scalability for Surges, Growth, and Evolving Markets:
• Design product in synergistic
product families that are versatile enough to quickly
adapt to volatile demand, growth, and evolving markets
• Design products for lean
production and build-to-order that can quickly
build and ship a wide variety of products.
This flexibility is even more important if
forecasts are vague for potential markets.
Scaling up Renewable Energy
The most challenging application of scalability will be to scale up renewable
Rising energy demands to deal with a
coupled with rapid needs to phase out energy sources that exacerbate the problem
means the world must be ready for extremely rapid scaling on a vast scale.
This means that new scalable designs must be ready to go and be:
If not, new designs will not be able to scale up and it will take a
lot of calendar time and resources to complete the
Unlimited Production Capacity
Limited scalability products could be built in a single
factory with dedicated tooling, both of which could be expanded somewhat
or duplicated. Similarly, having to depend on two billion dollar “fabs”
that take two years to build will greatly limit scalability.
Unlimited scalability would need to be designed for fabrication on
general purpose CNC machine tools in the 21,200 machine shops in
the United States alone! These automated parts would then be bolted
Minimum Material Consumption
Products should be designed in structural efficient shapes, like
trusses assembled from CNC struts, as shown in the generic examples at:
Readily Available Parts and Materials
See the “Part Availability” section, half way down the page at
Minimize Skill Demands
Designing out skill demands will eliminate those scaling limits and
minimize costs, as discussed two points after the above point on
Manufacturable Research link.
Problems scaling up current solar energy
1) Some solar solutions, like Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) are inherently too expensive
for widespread deployment, as was pointed out in the first
section titled “What is keeping concentrated solar cost high now?” at
2) Other renewable energies may not be scalable enough. Even if
the motivation and funds are forthcoming, production of un-scalable
designs may bog down
right away with bottlenecks in production, years to build more
factories, part/material supply
chains challenges, skill shortages, and
This article will show how it
can be made ready to scale up quickly.
Rapid, widespread deployment of solar power
What is needed is rapid, concerted deployment of a portfolio
of emerging and mature energy technologies. Some of these solutions must be
and designed for scalability. ALl new solar products must be
designed for manufacturability at the research
stage in the new article on this site.
Example: making Concentrated Solar Power scalable
This was selected as a scalability example because
(a) CSP offers the best solution for energy storage to enable solar
plants to provide power day and night by storing heat
(with 98% remaining all night) instead of trying to store electricity,
which is much more expensive and will have to compete with more important
uses of batteries for electric cars and home PV panel storage, which have
(b) current CSP have a long way to go become scalable
The conclusion of the opening section of the article on Half Cost Solar.
http://www.halfcostproducts.com/half_cost_solar.html , is that “mature”
Concentrated Solar Power is simply not ready to be scaled up.
CSP first must be
to overcome those manufacturability and cost limitations to compete with
systems that are designed to be scalable for rapidly large-scale
Ensuring Research will be Manufacturable
The lesson here for new technology development is to conduct
Manufacturable Research and avoid having to “invent under pressure”
and then rush prototypes into production, which causes most of the problems
cited in the linked low-cost-solar article.
Fortunately, manufacturable research or even commercialization can be done right now within existing
budgets and resources and not have to wait for large-scale resources to try to
scale up non-scalable designs. The next section shows how to do that.
The conclusion is that commercialization of mature and emerging
technologies must be done now so scalable solutions will be ready for
Renewable energy technologies must be quickly
and (re)designed for manufacturability, low-cost, and scalability, This
preparatory design work could be done now within existing budgets to be
ready for widespread implementation whenever greater motivation and funding are
How to Make Solar Power Scalable
First Step: Minimize Cost to ultra-low-cost levels. Expanding
renewable power will require that equipment is affordable enough for
widespread implementation around the world, which may need to be done very
quickly if everyone waits too long until demand surges.
Concentrated Solar Power (CSP, sometimes
called "power tower") has not been adequately
so its equipment design will need total cost reduction before widespread
deployment, as is addressed
in the companion article on Half Cost CSP Solar at:
That article opened with the section
“What is keeping Concentrated Solar Power cost high now?” and is followed by sections on
“General Participles for Designing Low-cost Products” and then a promising
example: “Heliostat Mirror Guidance at Half the Cost or Better,” which is
one of the biggest. opportunities to reduce half the cost for power generation
and eliminate hundreds of thousands of motors, sensors, and controllers
currently needed to track the sun, which also comprises the vast majority of the cost for heat production
for heat-intensive industrial processes.
The next steps: Follow the remaining steps after cost in the opening
Scaling up production volumes quickly by orders of magnitude
In order to scale up solar power:
- All the parts and raw materials must be readily available
in the quantities needed all over world. The biggest obstacle to this
availability is the very common practice of engineers saying "here is the
part I need - go buy it!" But "it" may not be scalable or not even
available now for any significant consumption. Rather, designers
should specify a minimum spec and purchasing agents should be look for the
most available selections above that spec. Ironically, such a search
will probably find higher performing parts at lower costs if they are in
greater widespread use.
- Fabrication will have to be designed to be done on widely
available machine tools, not specialized machines or large
mega-machines, which can be avoided by the techniques presented in the
Steel Reduction Workshop.
This workshop also shows how to avoid dependence on skilled labor, for
instance, replacing weldments with assemblies of CNC machined parts that are
assembled rigidly and precisely by various DFM techniques.
Conclusion: To scale up renewable energy, the equipment must be
commercialized and designed for manufacturability around widely
available parts and materials to be made without depending on skilled labor on
widely-available machine tools. This preparatory design work needs to
be started now so that when the need and demand appears, the world is ready
to scale up to any volumes.
SCALING DOWN PLANT SIZE
Scaling down boilers for
concentrated Solar Power
Boilers in the conventional energy business are sized for very large fossil
fuel or nuclear power plants
However basing solar CSP power plants on these can result in unnecessarily
large solar plants which can lead to unnecessarily:
- excess amount of money to raise
- excessively large sites to find, buy, license, and get environmental
clearance for, which may be even harder if the environmental strategy is
to find large plots of pre-distressed land.
- excess demands on the grid, possibly having to build or expand
transmission lines to large remote sites.
Boiler manufacturers may need to scale down to the boilers themselves by
using commercialization principles to maintain proven turbine blade part
design with fewer blade sets supported by scaled down framework structures
and plumbing. Thus the fluid dynamics and thermodynamics would remain the
same and not have to be re-designed or re-tested.
Scaling down Boilers to Double Fuel
Efficiency of Fossil Fuels
Fossil fuel boilers are only 37% efficient in generating
However, if boilers were scaled down and coupled to small generators, they could
be small enough for many “co-generation” (“CCoGen”) facilities that could use
all the burner’s 63% heat that is normally wasted.
And half the fuel burned = half the greenhouse gases
CoGen facility opportunities for 100% fuel efficiency include:
An apartment or store “boiler rooms” which
could now be a “zero-energy” or a “Zero Net Energy” building,
with zero net energy consumption from the outside.
A college campus or office park hating plant that
could now generate electricity and heat at 100%combined efficiency and
immunity from power failures.
Mission-critical facilities, like hospitals,.
data centers, emergency service control, transportation hubs, and military
bases, that would always have electricity and heat available during all
forms of power outages.
Avoiding economics-of-scale fallacies
There are many people in this business that firmly believe the
Mass Production fallacy
that getting the production volume up
automatically gets the cost down!
However, the proven cost-reduction metrologies of this site and
can lower cost much more than any perceived quantity discounts. And,
in fact, if such a large demand that exceeds the capacity of such a small
industry, could actually raise part costs.
Doubling Solar Plant Capacity
The 2015 MIT Future of Solar Energy report says:
“ A supercritical CO2 Brayton cycle is of particular interest
because of its higher efficiency (near 60%) and smaller volume relative
to current Rankine cycles. This is due to the fact that CO2 at
supercritical conditions. . . . . is almost twice as dense as steam,
which allows for the use of smaller generators with higher power densities.
Solar furnaces can generate more than this amount of heat, but at
the high cost or using two-stage collectors or single heliostat mirrors with
articulated facets, both of which are very expensive
So cost-effective generation of high temperatures would need
concepts like the examples in the article on
Manufacturable Research to continuously focus mirror facets onto a
single point without needing dozens of facet drivers for every
Scalability may require real innovation:
RENEWABLE ENERGY INNOVATION
Developing more effective renewable energy that will be commercialized
enough to scale it rapidly will require innovation.
But, in the opinion of the
author of the
leading book and
web site on Design for Manufacturability, the vast majority
are surprising inadequate at innovation,* except for the
especially his stand-out clients profiled at the Results paae. ion! Here is the web article that
tells why: Why Companies Can't Innovate,
and. and how to unleash innovation. which contains18 common
counter-productive practices that prevent companies from innovating, each
with web links to solutions.
Before any urgent needs require meaningful innovation, everyone
doing research needs to apply all the principles of
Manufacturable Research which are available now to all research groups at
http://www.design4manufacturability.com/research.htm who can apply all
these principles immediately.
And research should never be thrown over the wall "to industry" who just
"launches it" into their factories without concurrently engineering
products and scalable process, as described in the white paper:
* Fprbes says that "95% of patents are never licensed or commercialized."
Valley venture capitalists liken commercialization to "crossing the
valley of death."
These are the general principles plus an
around this article or URL to educate and stimulate interest.
customized seminars and webinars, these principles are presented in the context of your
company amongst designers implementers, and managers, who can all discuss
feasibility and, at least, explore possible implementation steps
customized workshops, brainstorming sessions
apply these methodologies to your most relevant products, operations, and supply
copyright © 2018 by
David M. Anderson
Book-length web-site on Half Cost Products:
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