Aluminum Solar Panel Support Frame

Discussion in 'Boatbuilding' started by mariobrothers88, Feb 7, 2022.

  1. mariobrothers88
    Joined: Sep 2020
    Posts: 215
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    Location: San Diego, CA

    mariobrothers88 Senior Member

    Hey guys I found this awesome video on Sailing Britaly's youtube channel

    where he shows how to make a stainless steel solar panel support frame with round SS tubes that allow the solar panels to pivot in all directions for the best sun angle. He uses a SS universal joint in order to accomplish this. I want to do the same thing but out of aluminum since SS is hard to come by in my area. I am trying to find an aluminum universal joint that allows it to pivot but I can't find anything in the local stores or online. Do they make universal joints in aluminum? If so, does anyone have any links to online retailers that sell it? I also can't find aluminum T connectors to connect the tubes at 90 degrees, does anyone know any online retailers that sell it?

    Thanks in advance for any help!
  2. Rumars
    Joined: Mar 2013
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    Location: Germany

    Rumars Senior Member

    Yes they make them, but the pins are usually steel, and no good to you anyway, you would need a (double) ball joint. If you use light panels (semi flexible glued to something more rigid) you can use windsurfer mast bases.

    If you pause the video you can see there is no actual universal joint, just a T pipe connector that is loose.
    You can make the same thing out of fiberglass, plastic, wood or two pipes welded together. The leg of the T fits outside or inside the vertical support pipe, the crossbar around the horizontal pipe under the panel.

    For fittings see McMaster-Carr and the less structural ones (don't use for heavy loads) McMaster-Carr
    Also Products | Hollaender Mfg Co wide range available.
    You can also find them in alibaba etc.
    Don't forget to compare the finished price to paying a welder.
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2022
  3. Olav
    Joined: Dec 2003
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    Location: Filia pulchra Lubecæ

    Olav naval architect

    Windsurfer mast bases ("universal joints" as they call them) are great for this. On my boat with a rather large panel (abt. 900 mm * 760 mm, 150 Wp) a simple flexible tiller extension joint does the job; most of the loads are taken by the 4 dyneema ropes at the corners to adjust the angle of the panel.

  4. mariobrothers88
    Joined: Sep 2020
    Posts: 215
    Likes: 10, Points: 18
    Location: San Diego, CA

    mariobrothers88 Senior Member

    Thank you so much for the links and for your help Rumars!! I'm still confused on how you can get a T pipe connector to rotate 360 degrees, even if you make it loose. I can see how by making it loose you can rotate the pipe along one axis, but how would it rotate along the other axis?

    Thanks again to everyone for your help!
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