UK Royal College of Art's student Markus Kayser has taken the desert's two abundant resources, the sun and sand, to create a type of 3D printer capable of fabricating glass objects. The concept device, he has called the Solar Sinter, uses motion control to move a beam of focused sunlight to melt silicia sand layer by layer. Allowed to cool, the melted sand becomes glass. This process of 3D printing is known as selective laser sintering. Where one layer in sintered, then another apparatus pushes more raw material (in this case sand) onto the fabricating area.
The Solar Sinter is completely solar powered with photovoltaic panels built onto the rotating platform. A sun tracking sensor adjusts the focusing lens (Fresnel lens), and move the base according to the pattern needed to be built. The fabricating table is a 2-axis automated sand box. 3D drawings can be inputted and built by the Solar Sinter. However, Kayser has to manually push the next amount of sand onto the work surface.
The Solar Sinter follows Kayser's prior project from 2010, the SunCutter. The Suitcase sized machine is a motor and timing belt automated x-y table that uses the focused sunlight to "laser cut" parts from various materials, mostly cardboard and wood. What is interesting, and artistic, about the SunCutter is the focusing portion, a sphere lens. Further operations were done by hand.
Kayser went from mostly manual to almost fully computer controller. The next project is sure to astound.
No mention of the controller used on the SolarSinter. They appear to be off the shelf development boards.
A work of art, or an experiment in textiles?
Videos via Markus Kayser