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SOLAR ENERGY

A timeless and striking design gains iconic status – the GEN24 Plus wins the German Design Award

Wissenswertes

01/12/2020
The innovative GEN24 Plus is the solar power supply solution. Whether for storage, backup power, heat or e-mobility, this hybrid inverter is a key element of energy sector integration. Its striking yet practical design was instrumental in winning another significant prize, the German Design Award 2021. This article will show you the important role product design plays at Fronius, as well as the many and varied demands that are placed on our inverters. 

German Design Award

The German Design Award sets international benchmarks for the most innovative designs and for competitiveness on the global market.

 

Only those projects that make a pioneering contribution to the German and international design landscape are eligible for the award. The international jury is impressed by product expertise that keeps in mind both the customer and the marketplace.

 

Along with product ergonomics, functionality and operability, the assessment criteria include important features such as sustainability, long service life, safety and the technical quality of the design

Compact and lightweight product design

The international jury were particularly impressed by the simple, compact housing design of the hybrid inverter. This not only gives it an aesthetically pleasing, modern look, it also meets the demand for contemporary energy technology and functionality in every detail.

Product design demonstrates technical competence and quality

Fronius has set itself the goal of creating attractive, functional and ergonomic products. They should leave a lasting impression by evoking positive emotions and making users happy to handle them.

Company founder Klaus Fronius was already aware of the impact made by good design: recognition of the brand, as well as a subconscious reminder of the quality inherent in the product and how the company operates.  

 

What exactly is behind the innovative GEN24 Plus design? 

We spoke to Andreas Murauer (Group Leader Product Design & Tech. Communication), David Schönmayr (Program Lead Sustainability by Design) and Christian Altinger (Head of Manufacturing Engineering): 

AM:
Our hardware and software products are a major part of the brand experience and customers need to know that they can rely on them. You only stand out from the competition if you exceed this expectation and also include an impressive housing design, control and connection system and service plan, and make the device easy to operate.

In the case of the GEN24 Plus, one of the challenges we faced in developing an authentic product design was that the position of the fan and the DC disconnector were already defined in advance. We therefore deliberately drew attention to the active cooling system and the fan.

Arguably the jury rated being bold enough to do things differently just as highly as the timeless and striking design that makes a product instantly recognisable.

 

What is the origin of the Fronius design?

  • At Fronius, design originates from collaboration with the user
  • The market is monitored in parallel with the consultation
  • Fronius prepares initial systems that are matched to user requirements
  • The derived draft versions are tested by the users  
  • The design influences the product development

Can you give us a general picture of the process – from the beginning right up to the final product design? What are the aspects to highlight?

AM:
Product and user interface designers are not merely aiming for products that are “simply more beautiful”; on the contrary, they want to make them better as a whole.
To do this, it is crucial to understand what it is that the user needs, and express this through efficient and intuitive operation. A variety of different demands are made on a product during the product life cycle.

To make production cost effective, for example, it is extremely important to use as few components as possible in a device and keep them as inexpensive as possible. Installers, however, need a lot of space in the connection area and want to be able to install and set up the wiring quickly and easily, so that they do not waste valuable time.  
All these requirements have to be thought about right from the start – they are the cornerstone for the design and layout of the device.

 

What have you learned from the previous design processes of existing inverters, such as the “snappys”?

CA:
The GEN24 Plus offers some innovations and new features, but modified versions of systems that worked well before are again included in the design, of course.

For example, we have incorporated a modified form of our successful snap-in system, because it is far more convenient for installation and servicing. Another new feature of the GEN24 Plus is the innovative active cooling system with the fan at the front. The changed fan position at the front and the cover protect the inverter against heat from insolation, because it is cooled by the active flow of air all over the front of the device.

The sustainability and long service life of the entries were also important factors for the jury. How firmly established are they in product design?

AM:
The issue of sustainability is very important to Fronius, not just in product design, but also throughout the company. We pay attention to the materials we use, and in particular to ensuring that all devices have a long service life and can be repaired.

With the GEN24 Plus, for example, the service life of the power electronics can be greatly extended, compared to passively cooled inverters, and more PV power can be converted.The company’s acknowledgement of the need for sustainability in many areas has increased tremendously in recent years, which is a highly positive development.

DS:
With “Sustainability by Design” we are taking product sustainability even further: our goal is evidence-based product development with optimised sustainability covering the total life cycle – from raw material, to production, to transport and “end-of-life”. Everyone can benefit personally from this “life cycle thinking” – where do products come from, where do they go when they are no longer in use – to make decisions that are future-proof.

» "Design is the finishing touch to function - professional design enhances a product. When form and function come together, the result is intuitive operation. A high-quality appearance also encourages identification with the product and motivates users to handle the product with care.” Andreas Murauer «