Solar-powered 3D sand-printer

Proff sez, "Markus Kayser built a 3D printer that works with solar power to heat up sand and form objects like a regular 3D printer, by taking the energy and the raw material directly out of the desert. He also built a laser cutter working with solar energy and a lens."

In mid-May the Solar Sinter was tested for a two week period in the deserts of Siwa, Egypt, resulting in the amazing footage above. It's incredible to think that the solar energy generated for both machines is used only to power electronics, servos and the mechanism that tracks the sun, while the power used to cut wood and melt sand is just raw, concentrated sunlight. While I fully understand the mechanics and science at work in Kayser's devices, there's something about them that just seems magical. Definitely head over to his website to explore more photos and info.
Markus Kayser Builds a Solar-Powered 3D Printer that Prints Glass from Sand and a Sun-Powered Cutter (Thanks, Proff!)


    1. Even just crafting another Fresnel lense for the mark II model would be a nifty achievement.

      Using solar power to smelt ore for a steel frame would be another machine. it’s having a complex ecology that keeps it from becoming grey goo.

  1. I don’t know about Grey Goo, but glass Von Neumann machines sound really cool. I’d love that bowl he made, a nice work of art.

  2. It seems like it would be possible to make an automated one of these that would build glass walls out of the sand. You could build a village in the middle of no-where, although really, why would you want to?

    I thought the term “Gray Goo” was only applicable to self-replicating nano-machines. This thing is WAY too macro for that.

    1. Anon Said: “It seems like it would be possible to make an automated one of these that would build glass walls out of the sand. You could build a village in the middle of no-where, although really, why would you want to?”

      I think that is a great idea to build a automated version to build walls or in combination glass bricks. The reason to build walls in the desert is to keep sand out. In various parts of the world sand is encroaching into fertile areas. Building a wall by using the very sand itself stop the spread of sand.

      Growing a Wall across Africa

      This example uses bacteria but it would be interesting if you could be glass sand tunnels that could be used for food storgae since it would be cooler buried deeper under the sand.

  3. How utterly delightful. Big bonus points for precise moving parts in a sandy environment continuing to work.

  4. Not that precise- skateboard wheels and belt drives. But a good match for a hostile environment. I’d add a programmable shutter.

  5. Wow – I just came back from the Royal College of Art show where this video and the actual machine is on display. It’s on for the rest of this week I think, and it’s a great show anyway!

  6. Make it fully autonomous and mobile, have a large onboard dataset of elaborate and aesthetically pleasing models, and set it loose in the desert to leave behind an endless trail of gallery-quality glass art.

  7. Increase the area of the panels and lenses, build an army of them, send them to Mars to build us a glass city.

  8. A swarm of these things on wheels could stabilize dunes and stop (or at least slow) the Sahara’s spread.

  9. I’m seeing a swarm of robots crawling over the Sahara leaving behind free glassware — which sounds considerably more facile than I mean it.

  10. If you put a lightning rod on top of this instead of a fresnel lens you could make 3D fulgurites!

  11. “He also built a laser cutter working with solar energy and a lens.”

    No, he didn’t. He built a solar cutter. Lasers is lasers, coherent and all. Bright-light-that-burns-things != laser.

    1. He built a solar cutter.

      Depends on what you feed it. Sand, it’s a fuser. Glass, it’s a melter. Metal, it’s a welder. Paper, wood, plastic, it’s an ignition source. Meat, it’s a barbecue.

  12. I’d like to see this working after a week in the desert and in some wind before I could imagine it changing anything. The moving parts probably had to be cleaned a few times a day. Great idea though.

  13. On occasion, someone shows you real magic. This is utterly delightful, and thoroughly ingenious, and is amply sparking the imagination of others – a wonderfully useful little nugget of innovation.

  14. I like how he had to put the electronic bits under that silver tent thingie.

    On the whole I’d say awesome. :)

  15. Very, very cool, creative, and artistic. Genius. I’ve made glass before by melting sand in a propane-fired furnace, and that takes some _heat_. I think I’d want a little more protective gear than socks over my hands… XO I also think I’d make the “office” big enough to get my sweaty ass out of the sun too!

    I hope terrorists don’t find out about this device; solar death ray in 3…2…1… (Of course, you’d have to get your target to sit really still while you set the Fresnel lenses up over their head…)

  16. drop it on mars and build us a dubai to move into before we get there in space ships.

  17. Solar brick maker. Have a few of these running for a couple weeks and you could build a house!

    1. Yes!
      Like a farmer in the desert, multiple machines, print bricks in interlocking shapes (like large LEGOs), come back in a month, and reap your harvest at picking time. And build your sun-made crop-buildings!

      The absolute opposite of “failure of imagination”.
      Blow away the status quo with ingenuity that they cannot ignore.

  18. Surely it’s the most romantic place to do it, but I’m not quite sure why this is being done in the Sahara.

  19. mars, seriously- want to move to mares in a few dcecades? send a few thousand of these, and use them to build buildings. and if you can make glass, you should be able to make sintered bricks,( kiln fired dry pressed clay/sand bricks) the possibilities are nearly endless. and to pay for it all? send a few to the moon, to make a 500 mile wide glittering coke logo- visible from the earth-

    a romantic thought, some summer night, you S/O on your arm, and above you the full moon twinkles “Drink Coke”

  20. Nasa/Space X get on this! Surely the moon with max atmosphere temp of 390K 242F 117C and oceans of sand would be prime for this. No wind. No atmosphere. No Neighbors. Lots of sun. Lots of time.

    X prize for this. x prize for the best purpose for this.

    I call glass highways/railways across the desert!
    Mirrors to increase the albedo back to where we need it.

    anyone out there care to calculate what rate this thing was producing glass?

    n cc’s of glass per hour per machine x usable light x n machines =

    1. Yes, but automating that is just a small matter of programming.

      In fact, given that dust buildup was one of the main problems suffered by the Mars rovers, you might not need to actually make a sand-dusting-thing – could just wait for static and wind to do their thing.

  21. I’d like to see something like this fully automated, walking around the desert (perhaps inside one of Theo Jansen’s machines) spitting out random little sand sculptures along the way. That would be an epic art project.

  22. I think this is a cool invention and idea. Hopefully in the future more printers and electronics have the ability to use solar as a power source.

  23. The simplicity of the design is awesome. It’s a low budget version of the makerbot. I also think the space applications for this would be awesome, if the right atmospheric conditions exist.

  24. the simplicity of this thing is amazing. I also think the space applications for his device can be really interesting, given the correct atmospheric conditions.

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