This article starts with general principles applicable to all industries
and then discusses special considerations for renewable energy, which needs major scalability

Value of Scalability

Having scalable products are essential and necessary for:

Growth  and,

Surges in product demand, which can be cause by:

Sudden popularity 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 standardization and 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 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 discussed at .

• 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 to 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 the article:

Scalability Principles Conclusion;

Products and concurrently engineered processes should be develop to be scalable designs
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 fastest
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 product.

• 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 fully commercialize research to ensure the above manufacturability is designed in the first time 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.

Next will be an example on scaling up renewable energy:

Scalability is the key to accelerating renewable energy implementation

The most important application for scalability is for renewable energy because current solutions are not ready to scale up to world-wide implementation because:

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, part/material supply chains, skill shortages, and difficult installation.

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 commercialized and designed for scalability.

Example: making Concentrated Solar Power scalable

This was selected as an 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 for electric cars and home PV panel storage, which have other viable alternatives

(b) it must do many things to be scalable

The conclusion of the opening section of the article on Half Cost Solar. , is that “mature” Concentrated Solar Power is simply not ready to be scaled up.  It first must be commercialized to overcome those manufacturability and cost limitations with systems that are designed to be scalable for rapidly large-scale deployed

The lesson here for new technology development is to start commercializing research now to 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, this 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 wide-spread deployment.

Bottom Line:

Renewable energy technologies must be quickly commercialized 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 forthcoming.

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 commercialized, 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 section above.

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. 

These are the general principles plus an example. Pass around this article or URL to educate and stimulate interest

In 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

In customized workshops, brainstorming sessions apply these methodologies to your most relevant products, operations, and supply chains.

Call or email about how these principles can apply to your company:

  Dr. David M. Anderson, P.E., CMC 1-805-924-0200; e-mail:


copyright © 2018  by David M. Anderson

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