Two inventors have figured out how to print their own miniature solar panels that can be used for charging up cell phones and kids' toys to almost any small consumer electronic device. Their "solar pocket factory" uses 3-D printing techniques and inexpensive PV material.

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The pair recently raised $77,000 on Kickstarter and are now hoping to actually build a miniature factory using a laser cutter to speed up production. Shawn Frayne and Alex Hornstein, two MIT grads, said they came up with the idea after finding micro-sized solar panels that were too expensive, tended to break and didn't last very long.

"This simple question led us on a voyage of investigation and discovery through the world of small, low-cost solar; through rotting solar factories in Southern China to shivering, soaked motorcycle trips across unelectrified tropical islands in the Philippines and countless late nights working on prototypes in an industrial building in Hong Kong," the pair write on their Kickstarter page. "And all along the way, we kept asking questions, and started to find answers."

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The inventors say their small printing machine is cheaper than large-scale factory production of micro-solar panels. That means that rather than outsourcing labor to poorer countries, they can use the device to make the panels right where they will be used.

Via GigaOm

Credit: Solar Pocket Factory