In a world increasingly concerned with questions of energy production and raw material shortages, this project explores the potential of desert manufacturing, where energy and material occur in abundance. In this experiment sunlight and sand are used as raw energy and material to produce glass objects using a 3D printing process, that combines natural energy and material with high-tech production technology.
Solar-sintering aims to raise questions about the future of manufacturing and triggers 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. This interview with Markus Kayser regarding his mind-blowing experimental ‘direct solar application’ work is brought to you by Joshua Kogan from Localflux.
From thought, you apply. Tell me a bit about your background; that is, the part of your background that you feel was most influential in your creative thought process.
The earliest influence is probably my upbringing on a farm in north Germany in the country side. As a child I started to build things on the farm, as there were workshops and tools as well as lots of material around. These objects, mostly lamps made from all sorts of discarded metal pieces and wood, were the starting point for me as a creator. Here I learned the basics of materials and building processes. There was always this experimental nature in my early work, although much more basic than today, which requires the skill of improvising and appropriating the existing for the new. After school I went to London (UK) to study furniture and product design at the London Metropolitan University. Here I started to realize the broadness, the vast scale in which design can operate. My tutors here were spanning a wide range of fields in design with Jane Atfield who is a pioneer in terms of material creation from recycled material, where the material and process step into the foreground and the final product being a reflection thereof. Assa Ashuach, who is well known for his work in digital fabrication and mass-customization of products using 3D printing processes, and William Warren who taught me to look and tell the stories within objects. From here I went to the Royal College of Art also in London, which probably was the place I rethought my whole idea of design and thinking process leading to the projects the Sun Cutter and the Solar Sinter. It was at the Royal College of Art lead by Tord Boontje that I was tutored by Jurgen Bey, Sebastien Noel and Onkar Kular who supported and furthered my design thinking, which lead me to think of a project in even broader terms. I wanted to tell a story, to create a manufacturing process as well as designing the objects to be produced all at the same time. I wanted an experimental approach within reality, so with a real proof of concept, which could tell a much more powerful story than ideas on a sheet of paper.
Valuable lessons along the way?
The most valuable lesson I have learned is that you have to try things! Experimentation is key to invention and creation and don’t listen to people who say its not possible unless they have tried it already in the same way that you are about to try it.
How did you become interested in your current work of desert manufacturing, and sun as energy?
When I came to the RCA the first project, what i did was to try and redirect sunlight onto my desk in the studio. I later found out that there was an underlying personal reason for that, as I had a Vitamin D deficiency. But for me there is a very simple logic of using sunlight: sunlight is an energy, which is truly plentiful and will last until this earth will burn. But there is also a fascination with light that I have, which spans from being a child building lamps for using sunlight to make glass. Sunlight is the ultimate powerhouse of this earth.
Is anyone else working in this space? any heroes?
There are artists I admire for their way of using or telling stories about sunlight such as James Turrell or Olafur Eliasson. And then there is Theo Jansen, which I love in terms of his ingenious mechanical and pneumatic devices using wind. I also love the experiments of Descartes and Newton in light ….there are many …but the direct application of sunlight for manufacturing is very new and unexplored.
When does the desert factory ‘industry’ begin?
Good question. I think it is a matter of will. The Solar Sinter is there to inspire the industry to take that path and make it a reality. I believe it is possible within a few years to develop a factory which could churn out glass products for local and global markets but the industry has to realize that it has to change and also that it can benefit by taking an unconventional path.
Where do you see your work taking you between now and then?
At the moment I am working as a research assistant at the MIT Media in Mediated Matter Group to foster my knowledge in technology. I will keep working on advancing this process as well as take on new endeavors in the new field of what I call ‘direct solar application’. ❚