Architecture & Real Estate | July 11, 2016 5:00 am

Solar-Powered 3D Printer Taps Energy of Sahara Desert

(Markus Kayser/Vimeo)

One man trekked through the desert of Siwa, Egypt with a suitcase and an idea. He knew the scorching location had the two keys to make his dream a reality: sun and sand.

That man is German industrial designer Markus Kayser, and inside that suitcase was something he calls the “Solar Sinter.” It’s a 3D printer powered by sunlight that transforms sand by melting it into glass sculptures. In essence, the sun’s rays take the place of a laser, and the desert’s sand takes the place of resins. Markus spent two weeks testing his production process.

(Markus Kayser/Vimeo)

The project began in August 2010 when Markus began experimenting in the Sahara Desert with the “Sun Cutter”, a camera guided system that cuts 2D components like a laser by using magnified light.

Markus sees a market opportunity beyond his own creation. “In a world increasingly concerned with questions of energy production and raw material shortages,” Markus writes on his website, “this project explores the potential of desert manufacturing, where energy and material occur in abundance.”

Now a designer and doctoral candidate in the Mediated Matter research group at the prestigious MIT Media Lab, Markus continues to challenge status quo methodologies of glass manufacturing. The question is whether his creation can translate into a commercially viable and larger-scale process.

“Whilst not providing definitive answers,” says Markus, “this experiment aims to provide a point of departure for fresh thinking.”

Check out the video of his creation below: