I think 3D printers are really cool. These things generally use some sort of glass powered or resin and are able to make a pattern into a real 3D shape using lasers. Generally the laser will harden thin layers of the resin until the finished product is complete and you have precision 3D item for you to use or play with. A student named Markus Kayser has created an awesome 3D printer for his graduate project.
He calls the project the Solar Sinter. The device is powered by solar energy and uses the hot rays of sun to melt the silica in desert sand to form the 3D objects. You can see in all the images here that the finished products aren’t as precise as a real 3D printer would make. However, the fact that to uses solar power and the sun to let plain desert sand into anything is really cool in my book.
It looks like the Solar Sinter is able to heat up layers about a quarter of an inch thick with each printing session. The software that allows the printing of the 3D objects is open-source ReplicatorG. You can check out the video above to see the Solar Sinter in action. If you are in the UK you can see the actual device on display at the Royal College of Art graduate exhibition through July 3, 2011.