Markus Kayser, a student at the Royal College of Art in England, has built a 3D printer that harnesses desert sand and sun to create objects like bowls and sculptures.
His invention is an adaptation of his previous solar-poweredprinting device, the sun-cutter. He had designed the cutter to carve out two dimensional objects out of plywood and wanted to apply the same technology to sand for his latest project, the Sun-Sinter.
Three dimensional printers “print” out objects using “additive manufacturing technology,” a process in which the source material is layed out one layer at a time based on design specifications. Focused beams of light causes the the source material, typically resin, to harden at specific spots. When one layer hardens, the next layer can be bonded to it, until the object is completed
Kayser's device works similarly, albeit in a slightly modified way. It's powered using a pair of photovoltaic panels that captures solar energy. Printing is done though a glass ball fresnel lens that focuses the sun's rays to heat the sand to the point where it melts. This zapping process, known as sintering, is carried out layer by layer based on pre-specified coordinates as the object starts to form. Once the melted sand solidifies into the desired shape, the object is removed.
The Sun-Sinter is currently on display at the 2011 Royal College of Art graduate exhibition until July 3, 2011. But luckily for us, he also wanted to demonstrate to the rest of the world how the technology works and produced a lush video that breaks down the process each step of the way.