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A Solar-Powered 3D Printer Prints Glass From Sand

Unknown Lamer posted more than 3 years ago | from the print-your-dishes-off-the-grid dept.

Printer 139

Tx-0 writes in with a story in Colossal Art & Design. From the article: "Industrial designer and tinkerer Markus Kayser spent the better part of a year building and experimenting with two fantastic devices that harness the sun's power in some of the world's harshest climates. The first he calls a Sun Cutter, a low-tech light cutter that uses a large ball lens to focus the sun's rays onto a surface that's moved by a cam-guided system. ... Next, Kayser began to examine the process of 3D printing. Merging two of the deserts most abundant resources, nearly unlimited quantities of sand and sun, he created the Solar Sinter, a device that melts sand to create 3D objects out of glass."

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Fonts (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36602980)

But can it do sans serif?

Re:Fonts (5, Funny)

parkrrrr (30782) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603130)

No, it only does suns serif.

Re:Fonts (0)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603414)

You're a pretty bright fellow to come up with that pun. Really bring a light to these dark interwebs.

Re:Fonts (1)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603974)

and sands serif

Re:Fonts (5, Funny)

RoverDaddy (869116) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603288)

Unfortunately it only does Cosmic Sands.

Revolution (1)

mrops (927562) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603998)

While all those Egyptians were protesting, this guy was tinkering. Sign of a true geek.

Cam-guided? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36603000)

So, cam-guided, as in cam-guided [wikipedia.org] or CAM-guided? PLEASE, editors, do your jobs.

Re:Cam-guided? (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603310)

Or "cam" as in "camera", which was what I first thought.

I'm guessing you were thinking this kind of CAM [wikipedia.org] , since you only linked the mechanical one.

Re:Cam-guided? (-1, Flamebait)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603568)

So, cam-guided, as in cam-guided [wikipedia.org] or CAM-guided? PLEASE, editors, do your jobs.

Watch your mouth sonny, "jobs" is a four letter word, just as bad as "work".
The fucking editor cunts aren't here to be pissed on with that sort of shit.

Re:Cam-guided? (2)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 3 years ago | (#36604542)

Its a computer assisted machining using a camera as input and a set of camber arms for positioning. Did I miss any other use of the "cam" that could apply?

Lady GaGa (-1, Offtopic)

abbynormal brain (1637419) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603032)

Just fainted

Not impressed (-1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603052)

I am not that impressed, It is just a big controllable lens.

Re:Not impressed (4, Insightful)

codepunk (167897) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603178)

But it still works much better than the one that you built.

Re:Not impressed (1)

asylumx (881307) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603454)

I just LOLed...

Re:Not impressed (2)

chemicaldave (1776600) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603188)

I am not impressed, It is just a machine that burns oil.
I am not impressed, It is just a big wheel that turns in the river.
I am not impressed, It is just a circuit that performs calculations.

Re:Not impressed (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603202)

I bet you typed that on 'just a bunch of tiny little switches'. What use could those possibly be?

Re:Not impressed (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603278)

Yeah, but you can use it to burn ants! Isn't that cool?!?

Re:Not impressed (5, Insightful)

Afforess (1310263) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603290)

One must wonder if you really even RTFA, or are just that dense. The 3-d printer using sand and the sun uses widely available resources, in a relatively short time span, to create complex objects, with little/no waste or pollution of any kind. (Exempting the manufacturing of the printer and solar panels themselves). I have not heard of any such similar achievements. The process itself is easy to oversee, (unskilled labor) and seems like it could be scaled up for larger production easily. This process could possibly be used to help start manufacturing on other words, with Mars being mostly sand. What about this achievement is unimpressive, other than your reading comprehension?

Re:Not impressed (1)

Normal Dan (1053064) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603348)

This process could possibly be used to help start manufacturing on other words, with Mars being mostly sand

This was my thought when I firs saw it. I've always wondered if something like this was possible to do on mars, or the moon. Looks like it might be.

Re:Not impressed (1)

yarnosh (2055818) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603838)

But what useful objects could you possibly make with it? An ash tray? A dildo? I'm not saying this isn't cool, but come on. Lets be real. Equipment used by astronauts is pretty sophisticated and materials are carefully selected for a reason.

Re:Not impressed (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603870)

You can fuse material together to create air-tight shelters, a necessity on other worlds.

Re:Not impressed (1)

yarnosh (2055818) | more than 3 years ago | (#36604150)

You can fuse material together to create air-tight shelters, a necessity on other worlds.

It isn't even real glass. It is brittle and porous. You're not going to make an air-tight shelter with it.

Re:Not impressed (3, Insightful)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 3 years ago | (#36604500)

Right. First-generation design doesn't do everything, film at 11.

It's a proof of concept chief. The first cars didn't have 4-5 star crash safety ratings while able to carry you at 80mph while achieving 40mpg (which my wife's Camry Hybrid does)

Re:Not impressed (1)

Ruke (857276) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603500)

While I agree that it's an impressive result, I'm not sure that it's entirely as practical as you make it out to be. Remember, the end result is glass, and not even high-quality glass at that. It's brittle, porous, and there is very little room for quality-control. The things that this machine produces are basically fit to be display-objects only.

Re:Not impressed (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603730)

It's a prototype that is using common desert sand, it's not meant to be practical at this point.

I wonder what he'll be able to put out using higher quality sand with the current design.

Re:Not impressed (1)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 3 years ago | (#36604190)

Not use martian sand as the poster up the thread implied.

In don't want to knock it though, any research into 3-d printers is good, as there time will come.

Re:Not impressed (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603516)

You are expending too much effort. There are people here who weren't impressed with the memristor either.

Agree with your sentiments, though.

Re:Not impressed (1)

yarnosh (2055818) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603794)

Um, pretty sure this is not intended for any type of commercial use. Even normal 3D printers are more for prototyping than actual production, as I understand it. The results are rather brittle and you can only use a very specific material. In this case, "glass." So yeah, if you happen to need brittle glass components on Mars... I guess this might help...?

Re:Not impressed (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#36605114)

This process could possibly be used to help start manufacturing on other words, with Mars being mostly sand.

Dust-storms [wikipedia.org] - who's gonna clean the lens?

Re:Not impressed (4, Funny)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603466)

Bob the Super Hamste's great great grandfather once said to the Wright Brothers: "It's not that impressive. It's just a motorized bike that doesn't need to be on the ground."

Re:Not impressed (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36603758)

Bob the Super Hamste's great grandfather also once told CmdrTaco "255 character usernames? Nobody needs more than 20."

Re:Not impressed (1)

Infiniti2000 (1720222) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603890)

Mod +1 Funny

Re:Not impressed (1)

bcmm (768152) | more than 3 years ago | (#36604544)

I am impressed. Look at what can be achieved with just a big, controllable lens.

What would be really cool (1)

xzvf (924443) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603100)

Set a bunch of these loose in the Sahara printing out solar panels.

Re:What would be really cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36603302)

better yet - Von Neumann machines:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-replicating_machine#von_Neumann.27s_kinematic_model

Build a solar powered von neumann that could replicate from sand then go back and harvest the solar panels for other applications....

Re:What would be really cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36603694)

You mean like a Beowulf cluster?

Re:What would be really cool (4, Interesting)

pnot (96038) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603726)

Set a bunch of these loose in the Sahara printing out solar panels.

The Sahara Solar Breeder Foundation [ssb-foundation.com] is aiming at something rather similar: "Large scale/low cost production of solar-grade silicon from desert sand," on a truly impressive scale. It remains to be seen whether they can find the money and political will to get it on track, though.

Re:What would be really cool (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 3 years ago | (#36604982)

I, for one, welcome our solar powered, glass road building overlords.

Sun-Cutter? (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603110)

But, can you use it to incinerate ants?

Re:Sun-Cutter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36605040)

But, can you use it to incinerate ants?

Just hope that the ants don't use it to incinerate you! ("All I want is an army of 50-foot-tall ants with frickin' solar death rays mounted on their backs. Is an army of THEM too much to hope for?")

Handy for extra-Terra construction? (1)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603112)

I wonder how "portable" this sort of concept would be towards outpost construction on the Moon, Mars, etc.? It seems like it has the potential for saving mightily on transporting the "cement" used in other such printable hab concepts.

Re:Handy for extra-Terra construction? (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603312)

Well, now that we have some shelter, all we need to live there is oxygen, water, atmospheric pressure, and food.

Re:Handy for extra-Terra construction? (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603724)

I know you are just trying to make some point. But being able to make structures from local sources. Will save a lot of extra shipping. A good size shelter will take the place of a lot of shipments of food, water, and oxygen. And if you could make a "Glass Dome" as part of a unibody design all the better because there will be less points of failure.... Of course I would be happier if I had a Dome within a Dome. In case one or the other broke.

Re:Handy for extra-Terra construction? (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603328)

It's hard to tell from the pictures exactly how porous that stuff is(it certainly looks rather rough; but it might be fully vitrified in the center with just a cosmetic crust of sand clinging to it); but, in principle, there certainly doesn't seem to be anything fundamentally wrong with using thermally-fused-whatever-mineral-dust-is-local-there as a construction material...

The engineering might well get a bit hairy, especially for the moon, though... Temperatures high enough to sinter the stuff, much less to vitrify it enough to be gas tight, would probably give you a nontrivial amount of evaporation/sublimation in a vacuum(after all, you'd basically be unintentionally running a gigantic vacuum sputtering operation right above your vitrification attempt...)

An unintentional sputtered film of mixed whatever-is-in-lunar-regolith would probably be lousy for lenses and mirrors, and, as it would likely crack into fragments of razor-sharp flintlike material if mechanically disturbed, potentially be murder on robots and astronauts. I'm sure people could figure out ways to at least mitigate the problem; but it wouldn't just be a magic sun+sand=unlimited building scenario.

Re:Handy for extra-Terra construction? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36603942)

Never gonna happen. Ever. tragic, isn't it? We'll somehow have to manage to live on a planet that has air, water, gravity, temperature, and free radiation shielding instead of living in a harsh, hostile killing vacuum. Whatever are we going to do!????

Re:Handy for extra-Terra construction? (1)

yarnosh (2055818) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603996)

Because a brittle glass brick structure is exactly what your average astronaut needs to shelter him from he harsh elements....

Can he build houses with that printer? (1)

ion++ (134665) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603212)

Cool usage of the sun. I wonder if he can build houses with that printer?

Re:Can he build houses with that printer? (2)

black soap (2201626) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603314)

Sadly, my first thought was "pyramids and monuments." Houses might be more beneficial to society.

Re:Can he build houses with that printer? (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603752)

But pyramids and monuments can easily get onto earmarks. Oddly enough it is easier politically to push towards building a monument then it is to build houses.

Re:Can he build houses with that printer? (1)

pz (113803) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603368)

Bricks, or reasonable approximations thereto, probably. Whole houses in one go might be difficult, though.

Re:Can he build houses with that printer? (2)

nschubach (922175) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603574)

You could place a long arm on it with one end anchored to the ground and use wheels on the machine to keep it facing the sun. Let it build arches while it tracks the sun across the sand. You could have the machine focus the sun with an oscillator to increase the thickness. The hard part would be supplying sand to melt when it got higher up. I guess some sort of screw elevator would work for that while providing a ramp for the wheel to travel. Of course, one arch would take several days with that method.

Re:Can he build houses with that printer? (2)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603744)

It looks to me like you could build a 1-piece house with nothing but a fresnel lens good enough to sinter sand. Most of the complexity here is the computerized moving table to enable computer-aided design, and the sun tracker - which are very cool, but limit the size of the item constructed, and require solar cells and a computer. With nothing but the lens, you could still melt yourself a nice crude house, or a basin to hold or collect water, or an adobe oven. In practice I suppose you'd at least want a jig to hold the lens to keep the arms from getting too tired :)

Re:Can he build houses with that printer? (4, Interesting)

nschubach (922175) | more than 3 years ago | (#36604092)

You could create a machine that has a consistent speed based on a variable input (like a water wheel/windmill/steam/Stirling engine [you got the sun already...]) by using centrifugal governors and a conical gear. With enough machinery it could operate almost entirely without solar panels and create repetitive simple shapes like bricks for the actual building. Doing something more complex though and you'll want some programmable mechanism like a computer.

I even wonder if you couldn't set up a mechanical sun tracker simply based on the heat it provides (ie, the sun moves over a plate which expands closing a circuit/friction plate that pushes itself out of the sun, cooling and opening back up.)

Re:Can he build houses with that printer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36603418)

You know what they say about people that live in glass houses!

Re:Can he build houses with that printer? (1)

tmosley (996283) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603982)

You should only throw a stone if you are in a glass house, and trapped.

Re:Can he build houses with that printer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36603502)

A glass house in places where sun is abundant enough for this to work might not be the smartest thing to live in.
Skin cancer, anyone?

Re:Can he build houses with that printer? (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603748)

While your friendly local scientific/industrial materials supplier can hook you up with fancy glass designed not to, the mixture of low-purity glass and embedded mineral bits that this thing is putting out will almost certainly eat pretty much all the UV and much of the visible light. The cancer risk would be essentially nonexistent.

Re:Can he build houses with that printer? (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603926)

TFA didn't say anything about the glass being clear... Actually the examples are very opaque/

Re:Can he build houses with that printer? (2)

MrTester (860336) | more than 3 years ago | (#36604806)

Yes.
And in an ironic twist, it can also make baseballs.

Annealing? (4, Interesting)

istartedi (132515) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603222)

I've got a passing interest in glasswork, and one of the things I learned is that it's more complicated than "melt into mold, let it cool". Glass has to go through a carefully controlled cool-down period so that the molecular structure will set up properly. Otherwise, the resulting object is far more brittle than it should be. If not done properly you can have cracks form during the cooling phase, ruining the object.

Does the incremental deposition solve the annealing problem? Being able to make glass objects without having to carefully control the cool-down would be very nice.

OK, read TFA and watch TFV (3, Informative)

istartedi (132515) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603370)

It's sintering, and it looks like you end up with lots of little pits and stuff in the finished work. It's also probably a glass-sand aggregate of sorts. They didn't show close-ups of the objects, or any attempt to "finish" them. They might be strong when finished, but not clear.

Re:OK, read TFA and watch TFV (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603498)

For bricks and other building material it seems like this sort of material should be fine. Assuming it is not too brittle.

Re:OK, read TFA and watch TFV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36603950)

It looks like a nifty way to make "giant glass legos" to build walls with.

Re:Annealing? (1)

Techie_79 (2287884) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603426)

Good point, and it isn't discussed in the article or on his website. And what about the impurities in the desert sand?

This looks more like a "look what I can do" (2)

sirwired (27582) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603456)

I couldn't watch the video (slashdotted?) but the picture of the object he made looks like a proof-of-concept for solar sintering, not a finely-manufactured object that meets any kind of standard for quality.

Don't get me wrong, this is a really cool machine, but it's more "wow" value right now than something you'd want to buy.

Re:This looks more like a "look what I can do" (1)

Carnivore (103106) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603882)

I've found that for whatever reason, I can't watch embedded Vimeo videos. If you click through to the source page, it works just fine. I'm on Linux with Firefox 5, latest version of Flashplayer for Linux.

Re:This looks more like a "look what I can do" (1)

EvilIdler (21087) | more than 3 years ago | (#36604506)

Check if you have any aggressive AdBlock settings or similar. I had issues, despite using ClickToPlugin in Safari (which gets the video instead of Flash when available). Turns out trying to filter Flash ads doesn't always work well :)

Awesome prototype anyway. Looks like it took the better part of an evening to create one bowl, though!

Re:This looks more like a "look what I can do" (1)

cruff (171569) | more than 3 years ago | (#36604680)

I have this problem also for embedded Vimeo stuff. Always have to click through, not worth the time to figure out why.

Re:This looks more like a "look what I can do" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36603970)

"finely-manufactured" is not usually a requirement for bricks, though. They can be full of pits and voids and still meet an appropriate "standard for quality".

And if someone figures out how to make a brick structure that naturally condenses and stores water in the desert, it wouldn't be half-bad having an automated solar factory that creates bricks endlessly. It could cause a Dune effect...

Re:This looks more like a "look what I can do" (2)

nschubach (922175) | more than 3 years ago | (#36604168)

I think a lot of the look of the object is based on the rather crude focal point of the lenses he setup and the fact that the depth was not fixed (he would skim sand over it seemingly at random with variable depths from the video. If you had a method of putting a finer layer of sand over a more controlled focal area it may come out nicer.

Re:Annealing? (5, Informative)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 3 years ago | (#36604042)

I've got a passing interest in glasswork, and one of the things I learned is that it's more complicated than "melt into mold, let it cool". Glass has to go through a carefully controlled cool-down period so that the molecular structure will set up properly. Otherwise, the resulting object is far more brittle than it should be. If not done properly you can have cracks form during the cooling phase, ruining the object.

Does the incremental deposition solve the annealing problem? Being able to make glass objects without having to carefully control the cool-down would be very nice.

I was a glassblower and glass bead artist for a while. Careful cooling is pretty essential for lime glass, which is what we mostly use. It's less important for borosilicates like Pyrex, which is why glass casserole dishes can survive being put onto 200C metal racks in the oven, and it's even less important for fused quartz that's straight silicon dioxide. You can stick a pyrex rod that's less than a centimeter in diameter straight into an oxypropane flame without it splitting or snapping, and I believe you can do the same with a 3 or 4 cm quartz rod. Obviously this stuff isn't pure silicon dioxide, but it's closer to SiO2 than it is to lime glass.

Incremental deposition probably won't solve the annealing problem, but it'll change it: instead of having strain across big areas, you'll have little bits of strain distributed between each layer of glass that's put on so you're liable to get a lot of small cracks through the porous material, rather than one big catastrophic crack. However, all those little cracks generally tend to grow, but that may be somewhat helped by it being an amorphous, impure material: it's harder for cracks to run in long straight lines in crappy heterogenous stuff.

Big Deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36603248)

Been doing this in Dwarf Fortress for a few years.

de-desertification (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36603254)

wow! that is awesome. I wonder if we can eradicate the desert by letting a swarm of those things loose

Re:de-desertification (2)

djdanlib (732853) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603324)

And what exactly do you suppose would happen if you removed all the sand? You'd still have a desert, just without sand.

Re:de-desertification (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603490)

You'd arguably have something that made the previous desert look like a verdant paradise... Deserts aren't exactly the world's lushest biomes; but they beat the hell out of an apocalyptic sun-baked glass/sand aggregate layer, which would likely take decades of weathering to support much more than lichens and microbes even if the climate suddenly became moist and temperate...

Re:de-desertification (3, Insightful)

black soap (2201626) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603340)

I don't think it is ever a good idea to "let a swarm of robots loose."

Re:de-desertification (1)

JonySuede (1908576) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603470)

especially if those robots have sand melting capability.

Re:de-desertification (2)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603392)

Contrary to popular belief, the desert TEEMS with life. Why would you want to eradicate an entire ecosystem?

Re:de-desertification (2)

Jeng (926980) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603434)

What good is an eco-system if we can't exploit it?

Winner: Young Republicans "Post of the Day" award! (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603586)

Congratulations. You earned it!

Re:Winner: Young Republicans "Post of the Day" awa (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603808)

From the GP's sig.

What good is a police state if I cant rant online about it!

Was just riffing off of his sig, but it is a valid argument if you take it that way.

Re:de-desertification (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36604176)

To replace it with a better one, or maybe just the last good one.

Those 'robots' could for example make structures that give some shade and hinders the sand from moving around. Both would help some plants and animal to (re)establish.

Re:de-desertification (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36603682)

The defining characteristic of "desert" is "lack of water" not "surplus of sand".

Re:de-desertification (1)

elsurexiste (1758620) | more than 3 years ago | (#36604936)

They are already doing something similar. Check here [ted.com] .

Why Not A Solar-Powered (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36603326)

Chip fab [youtube.com] from sand?

Yours In Science,
Kilgore Trout

Gotta gotta gotta (1)

applematt84 (1135009) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603366)

I gotta get me one of those.

And so it begins... (2)

Kamiza Ikioi (893310) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603532)

I, for one, welcome our new self replicating, desert dwelling overlords.

Does it have an IP adress? (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 3 years ago | (#36603534)

Because then I can finally download a car.

Re:Does it have an IP adress? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36604630)

A glass car may not do very well in safety tests.

oh, wait, I'm dead now. that sucks. (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 3 years ago | (#36604740)

So? If you wreck it, just print a new one. sheesh...

I can do this already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36603580)

Just need one block of coal, one block of sand and a furnace.

Kinda late. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36603846)

Didn't I read about this two days ago on Engadget?

High Tech (1)

Rene S. Hollan (1943) | more than 3 years ago | (#36604032)

This is high tech.

Someone once explained to me the difference between low, medium, and high tech:

Low Tech: You can see how it works. Example: a mechanical wristwatch.

Medium Tech: You make the components so small, you can't see how it works. Example: a digital wristwatch.

High Tech: You make it out of the right stuff and in the right shape, and it Just Works. Example: a microwave waveguide.

I submit this also qualifies as high tech.

Re:High Tech (1)

Ksevio (865461) | more than 3 years ago | (#36604620)

By watching the video, it's pretty clear how the basic process works - Giant magnifying glass aimed at the sand melts it.

The moving around to the right location is the complicated part.

Re:High Tech (1)

Rene S. Hollan (1943) | more than 3 years ago | (#36604782)

Yeah, the mechanics are low tech, and the controls medium tech, but I would submit that a Fresnel lens is high-tech, and possibly also the composition of the sand.

Math nazi (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 3 years ago | (#36604398)

...Merging two of the deserts most abundant resources, nearly unlimited quantities of sand and sun....

... for finite values of "unlimited".

Because otherwise it's nowhere close to "unlimited".

Geeze, people... how hard is it to grasp the notion that infinity is... well... infinite.

A better use (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36604600)

A huge amount of energy goes into producing concrete and bricks. In that region most structures are actually a form of mud brick adobe. A series of devices like this could make individual bricks or a robotic machine could follow a programmed path and layer by layer fuse a solid wall out of sand. The structures could last hundreds of years and need little maintenance where as mud brick buildings need constant repair. Allowing for tiny air pockets could add insulation value as well to the walls. It seems a more practical use since the fuses shapes are very rough so it's unlikely any commercial products could be made from them. Durable building materials that could be made for little cost other than the machine itself seems more practical.

Re:A better use (1)

deadhammer (576762) | more than 3 years ago | (#36604934)

They're rough right now, but you'd be surprised how accurate a fully developed industrial process can make a "rough process". At the very least there would be automatic sandblasting of the rough edges.

Ball Lenses are fun! (2)

bughunter (10093) | more than 3 years ago | (#36605134)

Ball lenses are handy things, and can be dangerous in direct sunlight - especially larger ones.

For most materials, like glass, their focal lengths generally extend away from their surface a distance less than their radius, and approach the surface as the wavelength extends into the infrarad, which means if you carry an uncovered glass sphere around on the beach or in the desert, you will burn your hand or set fire to your glove.

I learned this secondhand one day, at a beach gathering of Tolkien society geeks. One of them had taken to carrying around a 4" glass sphere she had found somewhere, calling it her "palantir." As the sun rose, she yelped and threw the thing to the ground. "It burned me!" she cried.

I had many times coupled fibers using ball lenses so I knew immediately what had happened. But I said "You know what that means, don't you? Sauron is watching you."

She wouldn't touch the thing again.

Also, speaking of ball lenses... you can use your head as a ball lens to extend the range of your car's wireless entry key fob. If you find yourself just out of range of your keys, simply put the transmitter about an inch behind your head, directly *opposite* the car. Your head is mostly transparent to the RF, but has a slightly different index of refraction from air/vaccum, thus acts as a lens. And since your head is approximately spherical, it works well enough to make a practical convergent lens.

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