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Sand melting, 3D-printing solar powered rovers

Image credit: Markus Kayser

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Oct 05, 2020
IN 2011 Markus Kayser created the Solar Sinter - a stationary, semi-automatic, solar-powered robot that melts the desert sand into glass. In essence, this is a solar-powered 3d printer that uses the desert sand as a filament to create structures made of glass.

The obvious next step for this idea is to create autonomous solar-powered rovers to operate on the outskirts of deserts and slowly, but surely print structures that would be useful to life:
  • houses, towns
  • roads? (followed up by solar-powered, sand cleaning robots)
  • structures that protect resilient plants from desert sun and sandstorms
  • structures that aid in irrigation and forestation of deserts, gradually pushing the boundaries of deserts inwards
Terraforming deserts with fleets of solar-powered, 3d-printing, and sand-removing rovers sounds like a good testing ground to perfect the technologies for future Mars colonization.

Do you know of anyone working on something like this?
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General comments

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J
J.7 months ago
It´s really cool and I like it! I agree with Povilas, but there is not a lot of options on a desert planet. Toughened glass could be used as a building material (at least as filling blocks between solid construction), but also as an insulation from the heat (glazed glass units).
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Udruga Mladih UMNO
Udruga Mladih UMNO7 months ago
I have had the same idea. It would be cool to insertinto mars rover a micro sand-glass brick factory and to make a building made of those bricks. It doesnt have to be fast.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic7 months ago
Agreed. Take a look at what they had in mind for the moon base https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pk9PWUGkz7o There is quite a lot of iteration to do before the rovers can operate at that level. Deserts are a perfect ground for practice
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Povilas S
Povilas S7 months ago
But glass is not a very practical material. It's practical only in a narrow niche of uses and it requires sophisticated processing to change its usual properties. I don't know enough about chemistry and physics of the process of sand melting, but if the final material has properties similar to regular glass, then it's not very useful. Maybe you can change the properties by regulating the parameters of the process, but you can't change the primary material - it's sand. You might be able to change the outcome by adding additional materials, but then you need to bring them from somewhere else and robots would need to carry containers of those materials with them, so it would no longer be so economical and ecological. The coolest use of this that comes to my mind is those robots driving around in Burning Man and making glass sculptures all over the place!
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni7 months ago
Loved this idea! This idea can also be used to study Mars (starting with our Moon) and building infrastructure there. Mars soil composition is similar to that of Earth. It has high amount of silicon in it. I believe converting sand to glass is based on the fact that sand is composed of silicon. For now, such rovers/ robots can be built to study Mars in more detail. Later on, they can be used to build all kinds of necessary stuff.