LightManufacturing claims its off-grid plastic molding systems will transform the market for large plastic objects like water tanks and boats, and potentially improve access to clean water and sanitation around the globe. The firm’s flagship SRM2 system is a ‘factory in a box’ which sets up on bare land in two days and allows customers to mold large plastic parts entirely with solar energy. Pricing ranges from $80,000 to just below $100,000 depending on features.
“You can make useful parts entirely off-grid,” says CEO Karl von Kries, “and you can do it at much lower cost than with a traditional grid-tied facility.” SRM systems don’t require a building, natural gas supply, or concrete slab, von Kries continues, “which is why we say our systems offer ‘Manufacturing without the Factory.'”
The company claims that its SRM factories operate anywhere with good available sunlight, with over 49% of the Earth’s land suitable for year-round molding and an even larger area suitable for seasonal molding. “We’re looking at supporting customers in the US Southwest, California, Hawaii, Florida, and many international locations,” says von Kries. “The business case is pretty compelling – for the cost of a upper-end Mercedes or Tesla automobile, you get a complete ready-to-use molding system that will never cost you a penny for energy. It’s remarkable.”
Since its founding in 2010 LightManufacturing has molded thousands of industrial components and water tanks for private clients. The firm first publicly disclosed the SRM technology in 2011, and received US Patents in 2014. Australian and Japanese patents followed in 2015, with a number of additional countries pending.
As to the company’s claim of improving water and sanitation globally, von Kries notes “Traditional plastic molding requires costly machinery, a building, reliable gas and electricity – that’s a tall order in many parts of the world. And if you’re making big hollow objects like water and septic tanks, it’s prohibitively expensive to ship them long distances.” SRM avoids these problems by molding parts in the community, using local staff, with sustainable locally–harvested solar energy.