Using Concentrated Solar Thermal Energy for Molding Plastic

Concentrated Solar Thermal Energy

Concentrated Solar Thermal Energy ( Solar Thermal Magazine ) – LightManufacturing LLC, a solar thermal technology company, has announced that the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued the firm US Patent 8,662,877 covering the use of concentrated solar thermal energy for molding plastic.   The proprietary technology allows low-cost manufacturing of large plastic objects like water tanks and boats without the use of fossil fuels.

The patent describes the use of heliostats (sun-tracking mirrors) to concentrate heat in a plastic molding system.

“Our technology eliminates the energy costs of roto-molding or vacuum-forming plastic parts”, says Karl von Kries, LightManufacturing Founder and CEO, “while offering opportunities to simplify and reduce the cost of the molding system”.  The company’s Solar Rotational Molding (SRM®) systems are delivered pre-integrated into 20′ ISO shipping containers, and can be dropped onto unimproved land.  No building, concrete pad, or grid energy connection is required.

“This ease of installation means customers can put inexpensive production capacity in new markets, or put manufacturing close to customers to reduce transport costs”, says von Kries.

Heat for melting the plastic comes from an array of the company’s “H1” heliostats, and a photovoltaic array on the roof of the container provides energy to rotate the molds and operate other equipment.  The company estimates that the now-patented processes can be deployed on over 49% of the Earth’s land area.

While many solar technology firms work on methods for generating electricity, LightManufacturing differs by concentrating solely on applying solar heat to manufacturing processes.  “Enormous opportunities exist to harness solar thermal energy for industrial applications”, says von Kries. “Many processes that burn natural gas or other fossil fuels to generate heat is a candidate for conversion to solar thermal, and the plastic molding processes covered by this patent happen to be two of the best first applications of our technology”.

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