Good Thinking

Solar-Sinter 3D printer creates glass objects from sun and sand

Solar-Sinter 3D printer create...
Markus Kayser tests his Solar-Sinter in the Egyptian desert
Markus Kayser tests his Solar-Sinter in the Egyptian desert
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Markus Kayser's cam-driven Solar-Sinter
Markus Kayser's cam-driven Solar-Sinter
Markus Kayser's Solar-Sinter
Markus Kayser's Solar-Sinter
A glass bowl produced by the Solar-Sinter
A glass bowl produced by the Solar-Sinter
Markus Kayser's Solar-Sinter
Markus Kayser's Solar-Sinter
The sun's rays are focused to melt the silica sand
The sun's rays are focused to melt the silica sand
Markus Kayser tests his Solar-Sinter in the Egyptian desert
Markus Kayser tests his Solar-Sinter in the Egyptian desert
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We've seen a growing number 3D printers that use additive manufacturing technology to form objects one layer at a time, usually from resin or ABS plastic. But Markus Kayser, an MA student at the Royal College of Art in London, has created a 3D printer that creates 3D objects using two things found in abundance in the desert - sun and sand. As well as being powered by the sun via two photovoltaic panels, the Solar-Sinter also focuses the sun's rays to heat sand to its melting point so it then solidifies as glass when it cools, allowing the computer controlled device to produce glass objects from 3D computer designs.

Kayser's inspiration for the Solar-Sinter grew out a previous solar-powered machine he created called the Sun-Cutter. This device was a low-energy version of a laser cutter that was also powered by the sun and focused the sun's rays through a glass ball lens to 'laser' cut 2D components from 0.4 mm thick plywood, paper or card using a cam-guided system. Kayser says the experience of testing the Sun-Cutter in the Egyptian desert led to the idea of the Solar-Sinter.

Whereas many traditional 3D printers use lasers to melt and soften materials, such as resin or plastic powder, until the particles adhere to each other in a process known as sintering, Kayser realized he could use the sun's rays in place of a laser and silica sand in place of resin or plastic powder to create 3D glass objects.

A glass bowl produced by the Solar-Sinter
A glass bowl produced by the Solar-Sinter

Kayser first tested a manually-operated solar-sintering machine in the Moroccan desert in February, 2011, and, encouraged by the results, developed a larger and fully-automated computer driven version that he took to the Sahara Desert near Siwa, Egypt for a two week testing period in May.

That device consists of a large Fresnel lens that focuses the sun's rays to a focal point onto a platform holding the silica sand. Two photovoltaic panels power a sun tracker that keeps the focal point on target. When one layer is completed, the platform drops down to allow for the sintering of the next layer, and so on until the object is completed.

Kayser says the results of those first experiments, which can be seen in the video below, "represent the initial significant steps towards what I envisage as a new solar-powered production tool of great potential."

The Solar-Sinter is also on show at the 2011 Royal College of Art graduate exhibition currently running until July 3, 2011.

Via: PhysOrg

Markus Kayser - Solar Sinter Project

Markus Kayser - Solar Sinter Project from Markus Kayser on Vimeo.

View gallery - 6 images
Andrew Kennedy
Wow. Even in its raw state the art is beautiful. Surely has industrial potential. Someone in the UK invents something and then we loose it. I hope not. Should be called the Royal college of commercial arts
Steven Howie
now I can make the ultimate sand castle!
Justin Scheller
Can you build a house like this?
Paul Anthony
@Justin, My thoughts exactly!
I do not know what the initial cost would be, but this looks like a game changer for poor communities in Africa. Imagine a community pools its money to buy one of these. They then produce many of the things they need for free from local sand. Bricks for houses (maybe shaped so they fit together like leggos or something so you do not need mortar), household implements like pottery, maybe even furniture, some tools like light gardening tools (if the glass is not too brittle). Each person could pay a small amount for the products to pay back for the machine. It would make a great cottage industry.
Kayser\'s idea is actually pretty old. For instance, Martin Caidin released \"High Crystal,\" his third Steve Austin novel, back in 1974. The plot had a concentrated solar power furnace built by an ancient civilization inside a pyramid.
Mr Stiffy
Now if we can just make the items GLASSY and smooth.... and perhaps with the FINE detail aspect - this could be very useful....
The industrial grinding stone effect, however, is quite charming too.
I think it\'d be FASTER to make bowls and stuff out of CLAY then kiln fire them. I\'d say that bowl took quite a few hours to produce judging by the real-time speed of the thing, but it sure does have potential!
Charles Bosse
Realizing that a tool that is hot enough to melt sand is hot enough for a lot of other things, this is pretty amazing.
Gregg Eshelman
If it can melt sand it can melt steel and many other metals. Put some thinking on that for this device.