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

Products and concurrently engineered processes should be develop to be scalable designs that can achieve the following forms of scalability:

• Minimize Cost.

The absolute minimum total cost is essential for growth for commercial products and implement widespread solutions to important societal challenges.

• 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 which must be:

• 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.

• Don’t base scalable designs on parts whose availability is limited by hard-to-expand production capabilities, like electronic parts and photovoltaic panels that are manufactured in billion dollar factories (“fabs”) that take years to build.

• avoid basing designs on scarce materials, especially those containing rare-Earth elements

• concurrently designed with vendor/partners so that all design guidelines are followed and parts can be easily build on widely available machine tools from widely available materials on without setup delays.

• 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.

• 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.”

• 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

• Upgrade scalability:

to allow preplanned plug-and-play upgrading of modules and other forms of upgradability even at the customers’ sites. The easiest upgrades would be software programming, configurability, adjustability.

• Flexibility in use: to allow users to quickly change settings, setups, parameters, and add on modules with low-cost mechanisms that are easy to use and easy to convert to programmable versions, some of which are available as plug-and-play modules from the same suppliers.

• Scalability for Surges, Growth, and Evolving Markets:

• Design product in synergistic families that are versatile enough to quickly adapt to volatile demand, growth, and evolving markets

• Design products for lean and build-to-order that can quickly adapt to evolving market directions.

Flexibility is even more important if
forecasts are vague for potential markets.

These are the general principles. 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:


Next will be a Scalability Example on scaling up renewalable energy:

Scalability is the key to implementing renewable enerby fast

The most important application for scalability is for alternative energy because:

Current alternative energy solutions are just not ready to scale up to world-wide implementation because:

1) they are inherently too expensive as was pointed out in the first section titled “What is keeping solar cost high now?” at

2) they are nowhere near scalable enough.  Even if the motivation and funds were forthcoming, production of un-scalable designs will bog down right away with bottlenecks in component production, shipping, and installation.

This article will show how it can be made ready to scale up quickly.

Rapid, widespread deployment of solar power

Others say what is needed is rapid, concerted deployment of a portfolio of emerging and mature energy technologies.  Some of hese solutions must be commercialized and designed for scalability.

The conclusion of the opening section of the article on Half Cost Solar ( ) is that “mature” 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 and prevents the development of low-cost scalable products.

Fortunately, this commercialization can be done right away 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 for solar power 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)designing 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.  Minimizing cost for Concentrated Solar Power was addressed in the companion article on Half Cost CSP Solar at:

        That article opened with the section “What is keeping solar 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 the vast majority of the cost for heat production for industrial purposes and key to electricity power fields.

The next steps: follow the remaining steps after cost in the opening section above.

Scaling up production volumes by orders of magnitude quickly

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 - 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.
  • Shipping delays must be eliminated.  Trans-oceanic shipping can take weeks for heavy equipment across oceans, designs must be scalable enough to be sourced and built world-wide.  That means common enough parts and materials that can be scale up quickly around the world. In the author's Build-to-Order book, the section  "World Trade in the Era of Build-to-Order" Chapter 6), the slogan is Build-to-Order favors local production for local consumption.
  • 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. 

To scale up renewable energy the equipment must be first commercialized and then designed for manufacturability around widely available parts and materials to be made without 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. 

For more information, call Dr. Anderson at 1-805-924-0100
or e-mail him at
To explore the opportunities of these techniques at your company call or email
with your name, title, company, phone, types of products, and needs/opportunities


Contact information:

  Dr. David M. Anderson, P.E., CMC
fellow, American Society of Mechanical Engineers
phone: 1-805-924-0100
fax: 1-805-924-0200

copyright © 2017 by David M. Anderson

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