Kayser says, “The project is really about how to use natural energy, in this case sunlight, and natural materials, in this case sand, to produce objects.”
This form of additive manufacturing is called sintering whereby a laser, or in this case the focused rays of the sun, fuses the sand into a congealed solid.
The project is really about how to use natural energy, in this case sunlight, and natural materials, in this case sand, to produce objects
Kayser explains how it works: “Sand melts and solidifies as glass and the sand sits in a box which moves around in the x,y and z axis – that is the 3D printing part which then controls the shape of the object.”
The base on which the sand sits is gradually lowered while more sand is added allowing the fused sand to build up in layers. Like with other 3D printing machines, a CAD file is used.
He says, “I can input a computer file and this computer file generates the x, y and z motion and the electronics and motors are driven by the energy which comes from solar panels also on the machine. The overall idea is that once this machine is built it can continually produce with the abundant resources of the desert.”
The Solar Sinter project has its roots in another concept called the Sun Cutter, which Kayser was working on while studying at the Royal College of Art in London two years ago. Much simpler in form but again based on direct sunlight application, Kayser took a ball lens to intensify the sun with which he could burn shapes into plywood.
Kayser said, “I was just playing around. It wasn’t a big idea, I wasn’t trying to change manufacturing or anything, it was more like a really playful project. I mucked around with this glass ball lens like a child does to burn leaves. I just wanted to control it, that was the aim of the project.”
The Sinter Solar project is far more technical and Kayser needed to learn complex engineering principles in order to construct the machinery. His inspiration for this goes back to the 19th Century.
I was just playing around. It wasn’t a big idea, I wasn’t trying to change manufacturing or anything, it was more like a really playful project
“I found out about these automated puppets from the 1800s made by Swiss or French clock and watch makers. They used these amazing cam systems to make what could be considered the first robots. These puppets could write poems and draw pictures and move their head while writing etc but completely by mechanical means, without motors or anything, just wound up mechanisms. These machines fascinate me in their complexity and made me want to make a machine that would be electronically driven but controlled by cams as I’ve done with the Solar Sinter.”