Royal College of Art student make a 3D printer that focuses the light of the sun

June 27, 2011 by Katie Gatto, weblog

( -- 3D printing has been around for a few years. If you hooked it up to a solar panel you could make it work with the sun, but still would not be as cool as doing it the way that Markus Kayser, a MA student at the Royal College of Art, has gone about it. He has create a 3D printing machine that is able to focus the rays of the sun through a glass ball with enough intensity that it can create a beam that is able to heat silica sand to its melting point. Silica sand is often used in manufacturing process of heat resistant products for its high melting point.

The device, named the Solar Sinter, is based on a previous design known as the Sun-Cutter, which was able to cut two-dimensional shapes into thin sheets of plywood. Because of the imprecision of the tool it was only able to make relatively rough cuts, and there was a great deal of variation in functionality based on changes in the cloud cover.

This new 3D model gets is based on current designs of 3D with only two substitutions. The traditionally used resin or plastic powder has been replaced by the sand and the laser has been replaced by focused solar rays. The system, which is fully automated, then automatically creates a glass object out of the 3D designs, which represents a significant upgrade to the technology.

People who are interested in seeing the design first hand are able to see it while it is on show at the Royal College of Art graduate exhibition.

Explore further: Waiting for a replacement part for your domestic appliance? Print your own

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2.4 / 5 (5) Jun 27, 2011
OK- My first thought was that an art student made some crude solar powered ashtray maker. Then I thought, could this be used in lunar construction?
4 / 5 (4) Jun 27, 2011
Make a longer version and create logs for a desert log cabin. Then remake Grizzly Adams as Camel Adams.
not rated yet Jun 27, 2011
I wonder how big a tool like this can be, and how big an object it might create? When people start using and refining the machine, how much can the quality of the output be improved? Even this rough output might be great for vermin-resistant packaging and storage. Sintered glass ought to keep out rats and mice. Is it porous? Can a glass container with a glass lid be tight enough or easily sealed to keep out insects? Very interesting project!
1 / 5 (2) Jun 27, 2011
Here's a thought--run a cheap magnet through the sand and pull out a few gallons of iron and iron mineral particles. Will this machine sinter iron like it does glass?
5 / 5 (3) Jun 27, 2011
I hadn't thought of any serious applications of this device - until I read the comments! As a source of cheap, durable building materials in impoverished desert regions, it has a lot going for it.
not rated yet Jun 28, 2011
A really great project this is! Too much sand and so little to do with it. Though I'd like to see the printer inversed: instead of having to dig the product out of sand, being able to build the glass up. I'd then make a portable version and become the Middle-East version of Iceman: GLASSMAN! Of course I'd have to come up with a cool suit...
2.6 / 5 (5) Jun 28, 2011
and before you know it we are building entire cities derived from sand...
glass pipes instead of PVC/copper pipes.

yes i can see it before me.

1 / 5 (1) Jun 28, 2011
I agree with kaasiness!

How long before it becomes steam powered and mobile, building as it goes?
not rated yet Jun 28, 2011
I just took a look at the video. The current version has each layer of sand added by hand. This could be automated in the next version.

I do have a concern though of making an object that is wider than the focal point of the beam. Would it be possible to make a wide brick with it? What about a "sinter" block?
not rated yet Jun 28, 2011
Here's a thought--run a cheap magnet through the sand and pull out a few gallons of iron and iron mineral particles. Will this machine sinter iron like it does glass?
Iron loses its magnetic properties below its melting point, so that would not work.
not rated yet Jul 11, 2011
Don't you mean it loses its magnetic properties "Above" its melting point? It actually loses magentic properties above 770 C when it forms austenite

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