3D printing glass in the desert

If you were stuck in the desert & only had one provision to choose from, what would it be?

solar sintering

Well if your name is Markus Kayser you’d likely take your solar sintering 3D printer of course! The abundance of sand and sunlight in this environment provides both raw materials and energy. Allowing any failed mutineer or downed pilot to make nearly any provisions they could ever dream of!

“By using the sun’s rays instead of a laser and sand instead of resins, I had the basis of an entirely new solar-powered machine and production process for making glass objects that taps into the abundant supplies of sun and sand to be found in the deserts of the world.” – Kayser

Video and further images after the jump…

This printing method employs no bonding agents nor synthetic support material – only using the raw materials readily available. Kayser’s machine focuses the Sun’s energy with a fresnel screen onto the thin layer of sand fusing the sand into glass.

The video shot in the Sahara desert near Siwa, Egypt shows the process isn’t yet 100% automated – the current model requires an operator to lay down and level each layer of sand. But otherwise the machine is truely remarkable in that it is entirely solar powered – the photo-voltaic cells power the sun’s tracking motor and computer – feeding the 3D data to the sintering bed.

Sintered sand

Kayser concisely sums up his project:

“Solar-sintering aims to raise questions about the future of manufacturing and trigger dreams of the full utilisation of the production potential of the world’s most efficient energy resource – the sun. Whilst not providing definitive answers this experiment aims to provide a point of departure for fresh thinking.”

Without a doubt this must be the most sustainable additive manufacturing process ever put into production. According to Wikipedia the total amount of energy the Earth’s surface receives from the Sun each second is 1.74×1017 J. Currently we harness only a mere fraction of that…

Personally I don’t think its ridiculous to rule out the possibility of some day Bedouins adopting 3D print technology of this sort.


David is an industrial designer from New Zealand. He contributes weekly 3D print articles for Ponoko. You can follow him on Twitter @dizymac

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3 Responses to “3D printing glass in the desert”

  1. Edgar Castelo Says:

    Laser-sintering Robot homebuilders on Mars!

  2. Iain Says:

    that is awesome. maybe a slightly lower layer depth for a more uniform object?

    a set of polarising layers on the lense, to allow you to turn the focal on or off?

    still, love it.

  3. 3D printing glass in the desert | iamacyborg Says:

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