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Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing by Hod Lipson, Melba Kurman

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Chapter 11

Green, clean manufacturing

A man in a bowler hat and sunglasses stands on a vast sandy plain under a baking sun and blue cloudless sky. Next to him awaits a gleaming metal contraption the size of a small urban bus stop. On top of the machine are two dark solar panels. Nearby, a small tent of metallic fabric serves as his portable office.

The man crouches in front of what looks like an open briefcase. His hands patiently untangle a nest of brightly colored wires that spew from its insides. Behind him, magnificent sand dunes accentuate his glowing white clothing.

Markus Kayser uses solar energy to power this 3D printer that captures the sun’s light through a gigantic lens to melt sand into shapes. The location is a desert in Morocco, but this scene could take place anywhere there’s strong sun and abundant sand.

Image courtesy of Markus Kayser

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When the wires inside the briefcase are arranged to his satisfaction, the man connects the briefcase to the machine. The machine’s metal frame is jointed together with spools covered in aluminum foil, reminiscent of the knee and elbow joints of The Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz.

As the solar panels begin to stream in energy, the machine’s gears begin to grind. A rectangular thick pane of glass, attached to the metal frame by an adjustable arm is a gigantic magnifying glass. Its lens concentrates the sun’s rays into a powerful beam ...

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