Make: 3D Printing (2014)
Part VII. Applications
Chapter 18. Desert Manufacturer
Markus Kayser’s sand and sun 3D printer.
Think that deserts lack resources? Not to Markus Kayser. The MIT research assistant with a master’s in product design has created a 3D printer that can make glass objects using a desert’s two most abundant resources: sun and sand. “I began asking myself,” says Kayser, “what if I could build a machine which would act as a kind of translator between the two?” His Solar Sinter (Figure 18-1) is the direct result.
Figure 18-1. The Solar Sinter
Based on a type of 3D printing known as selective laser sintering (SLS), Kayser’s Solar Sinter uses the sun’s rays as a laser and sand rather than resins to create exact physical replicas of his digital designs. The printer includes a large Fresnel lens that’s always facing the sun (by way of an electronic sun-tracking device), stepper motors to move and load its sandbox, and two 60-watt photovoltaic panels that provide electricity to charge the battery that drives the motors and electronics of the machine.
His first time out with Solar Sinter, Kayser produced both a bowl and a tile, as well as a sculptural piece. “Once I input the design I’m trying to produce via an SD card,” he says, “the machine reads its code and then moves the sandbox along to the correct x and ycoordinates at 1 mm per second, while the lens focuses a light beam that produces temperatures between 1,400°C and 1,600°C, more than enough to melt the sand.” The objects (Figure 18-2) are built layer by layer over the course of several hours.
Figure 18-2. Sintered objects
“[In the future] printing directly onto the desert floor with multiple lenses melting sand into walls and eventually building architecture in desert environments could be a real prospect,” Kayser muses.
Laura Kiniry is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and regular MAKE contributor.