The Solar-Sinter Project.

Solar-Sinter Project by Markus Kayser
3D Printing will change
the world

In a world increasingly concerned with questions of energy production and raw material shortages, the Solar-Sinter Project explores the potential of desert manufacturing, where two elements dominate - sun and sand. The sun offers a vast energy source of huge potential, the sand an unlimited supply of silica in the form of quartz.

When silica sand is heated to melting point (up to 1.600 ºC / 2.912 ºF) and then cooled, it solidifies as glass. This process of converting a powdery substance via a heating process into a solid form is known as sintering and has in recent years become a central process in design prototyping known as 3D printing or SLS (selective laser sintering). These 3D printers use laser technology to create very precise 3D objects from a variety of powdered plastics, resins and metals.

By using the sun’s rays instead of a laser and sand instead of resins, Markus Kayser - MA in Design Products at Royal College of Arts, London 2011 - designed the Solar-Sinter, an entirely solar-powered machine and production process that could bring together these two raw elements for making glass objects.

The experimental printer uses ReplicatorG software, an open source 3D printing program (see and is fully-automated computer driven. Light sensors track the sun across the sky and the whole device pivots at its base to produce the highest temperatures.

The sand is placed in a bowl beneath the high-powered Fresnel lens, and the solar beam slides back and forth on an east/west axis, melting the sand as it goes. When a layer is complete, a new sprinkling of sand is placed on top, which is then also melted into the previous layer. This continues until an object has been created.

In May 2011, after initial tests in the Moroccan desert, Kayser took the solar-sintering machine to the Sahara desert near Siwa, Egypt, for a two-week testing period.

The results aims to raise questions about the future of manufacturing and triggers dreams of the full utilisation of the production potential of the worlds most efficient energy resource - the sun. Whilst not providing definitive answers, this experiment aims to provide a point of departure for fresh thinking.

Kayser believes that in time, variations of the Solar-Sinter could be used in full-scale architectural projects, creating a whole new desert industry that relies only on sand and sun.

The project is currently on show at the Design Museum’s Designs of the Year 2012 exhibition (08 February – 04 July).

Concept design: Markus Kayser, UK

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3D printer parts of Solar-Sinter Project

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