Engineer Interview 

We wanted to give you additional details on the design of the DXT1, so we talked to one of our engineers. If you’d like even more detail, I’m sure we can set up your own interview. Just ask.

Q: What’s so unique about the construction of the Ontrack Integrated Beam?

A: The Integrated Beam is created with a metal laminating process, and each piece of lamination serves a specific purpose. This is something usually found in aerospace manufacturing, not solar arrays.

Q: Can you give us more detail about those layers?

A: Well, the core of the beam is 10-gauge galvanized steel that we cut with a precision laser. This gives it unprecedented lateral beam strength and facilitates the easy slide mounting with mounting hooks as part of the main core. Then, bolted through that main core--using half-inch zinc-plated bolts and nylon locking nuts--are two mirrored 16-gauge galvanized structural shapes that form an hourglass or “Y” when pulled together. This provides lateral strength, yaw stiffness and becomes the main platform for the panel mounting system.

Q: Tell us more about the mounting system.

A: That hourglass shape itself adds overall strength. But when solar panels are mounted and clamped--especially with our full length clip bar--the strength is multiplied. It’s all designed so different size panels can easily slide into the hourglass shape and suspend above the Integrated Beam for perfect rectangle panel layouts. You really have to install one to appreciate it.

Q: What sizes and types of solar panels can the DXT1 accommodate?

A: As a matter of fact, we’ve yet to find a solar panel that we can’t clamp to our system. The lower section of the metal lamination creates a wide base for easily sliding the beams into position on the main altitude structure. This creates the top side of the Integrated Beam’s mounting system, which gives the entire structure so much flexibility. Remember the mounting hooks on the core member? Here is where they come into play. We’ve designed and built 10-gauge galvanized beam clamps that bolt straight to the hooks on both sides. We are literally locking the beam into place by direct center force. We’ve built in flexibility and security. In addition, the half-inch SHCs that lock the beams into place are specially designed with a pointed tip to penetrate the galvanized coating on the main altitude system and give you an instant integrated ground system. That’s eight grounding points per beam, and that’s a standard feature.

Q: You’ve talked a lot about strength. How big and heavy are these systems?

A: Almost as big as you’d like them to be, and much, much lighter than our competition. Each Integrated Beam is 29.75 feet long, combining all three sections. The sections are bolted together with specially designed splice plates which are held in place with twelve 5/8 ASTM A325 slip-critical bolts. Using lightweight materials and a little geometry, we’re able to keep each beam under 200 pounds. In comparison, a 29.75 foot structural steel I-beam weighs 476 pounds per beam. That makes us 276 pounds per beam lighter. That’s about 60 percent less weight. If your tracker uses seven, 10 or 12 beams, that adds up fast. That means more materials used, longer production times, greater shipping costs, longer installation times and more wear on the equipment.

Q: It sounds like you’ve taken the DXT1 to a whole new level. What if I only need a single-axis system?

A: The best feature of the Integrated Beam (and, in turn, our mounting system) is the fact that we use it on every system we manufacture. Whether you need a dual-axis tracker, single-axis tracker, fixed mount system, carport or roof mount system, we’ll use the same beam. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time. We invented a great wheel right out of the box.