Solar-Powered 3D Printer Can Make Glass out of Sand

In yet another example of what can be done through the combination of modern CAD architectural drafting and 3D printing, a German designer has invented a 3D printer which is not only powered by the sun, but which can transform sand into glass. Named “Solar Sinter” (after its power source and sintering, the process of turning powders into solids), this 3D printer is already being hailed as a potential groundbreaking tool that can transform a largely untapped resource, the copious amount of sand in North Africa and the Middle East, into a usable building and manufacturing material.

The Solar Sinter 3D printer makes use of a large Fresnel lens, which actively rotates toward the position of the sun throughout the day to capture the largest amount of solar energy so that it can continue working at maximum efficiency. This lens captures light from the sun, and then uses it to melt sand that has been taken into the machine and shapes it into glass.

The ability to so easily transform one material into another would be impressive enough, but Solar Sinter does more than just create unshaped raw material. Digital designs downloaded from a computer can be programmed into the printer via a simple memory card. Once a design has been uploaded, Solar Sinter can be used to manufacture glass products in the shape of the CAD designs for the products its users need it to make.

A New Architectural Tool?

Solar Sinter was created by Markus Kayser, a German designer who created the machine in 2010 while attending the Royal College of Arts in the United Kingdom. The potential applications of Kayser’s machine have not gone unnoticed by its creator, who not only predicts that the Solar Sinter model could become the cheapest way to manufacture glass within the near future, but also that it could be used as the basis for low-cost desert factories in underdeveloped countries in Africa and the Middle East, where sand is an abundant and free natural resource.

The Sinter’s most important tool, the Fresnel lens, costs only $600, making it less expensive than the majority of parabolic devices used in deserts to capture sunlight. Combined with the fact that the device can easily manufacture products to spec with only an uploaded CAD file and the necessary amount of sand, it’s easy to see how the Solar Sinter could easily become a widespread tool in the inexpensive manufacturing of glass.

There are already signs of positive development in the commercialization of Kayser’s creation. His latest trip to the desert to test the device was sponsored by a ceramics company, and 3D printing specialists and commentators are taking notice of Solar Sinter’s potential. The attention is likely to attract the attention of investors, which Kayser hopes will lead to the Sinter being further refined and developed, with the inevitable goal of it being able to produce more refined and complex designs.

Want to learn more about how CAD is used in modern architectural planning? Contact Q-CAD today at 800-700-3305.



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