On spare rooftop space, or on a large sun-drenched open area, any manufacturer could build a solar power plant to satisfy the energy needs to its production operations.
Solar thermal can fulfill a substantial amount of heat demand in industrial and agricultural food processes within any given country and irrespective of the geographical location.
In developed economies, solar thermal can provide technically about half of this energy consumption by supplying hot water and steam in a temperature range of up to 400°C, according to Solar Thermal World.
SRM Technology (Images credit: LightManufacturing Systems)
Solar thermal energy in developing countries can provide hot air and hot water needed for curing, drying, dyeing, washing, boiling, pasteurization, sterilization or any other application.
Now, Californian renewable energy firm, LightManufacturing Systems wants to sustainably revolutionize the rotational molding process further by using concentrated sunlight as a source of heat instead of conventional fossil fuels powered electricity.
This could open-up the potential application of solar energy into directly manufacturing process rather than mere producing the electricity for the operations.
LightManufacturing specializes in rotational molding, a process by which most large, hollow plastic products are made. Its off grid solar molding offers sustainable plastic molding for large plastic objects with zero carbon, zero fossil fuels.
Solar Rotational Molding (SRM) Technology
Its SRM technology is unique among sustainable manufacturing processes in that it highly competitive and costs less to operate and purchase than the traditional rotational molding process.
Images credit: LightManufacturing Systems
A bank of computer-controlled mirrors reflects sunlight onto a rotating hollow mold, which heats to several hundred degrees in seconds and melts the plastic inside. The mirrors adjust their positions as the sun moves across the sky, moving from mold to mold.
Rotational molding is a globally-used technique for making large plastic objects. Over 3.6 billion pounds of plastic are rotationally molded each year. Unfortunately, the process is energy intensive and uses non-renewable energy sources like natural gas and kerosene. Over 18.4 trillion BTU of fossil fuel is consumed by the rotational molding process, generating over 2.15 billion pounds of greenhouse gasses annually.
Solar Rotational Molding System can be installed into areas as small as 60′ x 60′ (3600 ft2). Heliostat array footprint @ 60′ x 10′ (600 ft2), Target enclosure footprint @ 20 ‘x 8′ (160 ft2), Raw materials, tools, and finished part storage (typical) 300 ft2, according to the company.
What is Rotational Molding of plastic?
Many plastic products are made in either stationary molds or molds that move, shake, spin or rotate, known as rotational molding or rotomold.
Rotational molding of plastic starts by putting loose, plastic pellets in the mold and closing it up, the mold is then heated with a conventional source of energy, like natural gas or grid electricity, until the pellets inside melt to a liquid.
When the fluid plastic has fully coated the inside of the mold the heat source is turned off, but the mold keeps moving until the plastic cools and hardens sufficiently inside. Then the product is removed and the process started again.
“We’re not a PV company” explains founder Karl von Kries, “we don’t make electricity. Instead, we use concentrated solar heat to replace fossil fuels in industry, we’ve learned how to mold water tanks and boats using solar thermal energy at a fraction of the cost”.
In addition to patents and process know–how, the firm developed a unique line of sun-tracking heliostats.
H1 heliostat Technology
H1 heliostat is the first Internet of Things (IoT) heliostat that connects to the internet for simple cloud-based configuration and aiming. No software is required to use the H1, just a web browser on a computer or smartphone, according to the company. It is the lowest cost per reflected watt heliostat available in the market with advanced membrane mirrors & wireless networking.
H1 heliostat technology (Images credit: LightManufacturing Systems)
LightManufacturing H1 Heliostats are ideal for solar furnace, solar oven, and similar applications. Each H1 heliostat captures up to 2000 watts of solar heat, and directs it to a cooker, water heater, roasting enclosure, or other solar oven/furnace design. Multiple H1 heliostats can target the same enclosure to deliver very large amounts of heat.
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. (Source: LightManufacturing Systems)
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