3-D Printer Creates Glass Objects from Solar Power and Sand
CREDIT: Markus Kayser
A new 3-D printer can harness sun and sand to create beautiful glass sculptures and bowls. Its ability to channel solar power directly into molding the abundant sands of places such as Egypt and Morocco could herald a new generation of 3-D printers that more directly use naturally abundant resources.
The direct use of what exists in the environment sets the Solar Sinter device apart from traditional 3-D printers that use lasers to mold powdered plastics or metals into objects. Its London-based inventor, Markus Kayser, tested two different experimental prototypes as steps toward creating a solar-powered production machine of the future.
The Solar Sinter focuses sunlight by using a large lens similar to those found in lighthouses. Such intense solar power melts silica-heavy sands into glass, and a computer-automated system directs the melting process to create a 3-D glass object rising from the sands. Two solar panels supply power to a battery that keeps the electronics running.
Kayser created the Solar Sinter after first experimenting with a solar machine called the Sun Cutter. The earlier device could cut 2-D shapes out of plywood and fit inside a suitcase, whereas Kayser had to rely on a truck and his own manpower to drag the Solar Sinter around. His first field test took place in the Moroccan desert in February, and a second took place in the Sahara desert near Siwa, Egypt in late May.
The device does not entirely run itself just yet; Kayser sweeps fresh sand on top of the object taking shape whenever the Solar Sinter completes one layer of its 3-D printing. But the early device and its results work well enough so that people living in the desert or near a beach may have gotten their first glimpse of 3-D printing's future .