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The desert sun: Mother Nature's new laser printer

The humble magnifying glass -- that simple toy of childhood so readily turned into an ant-frying death ray -- just got an upgrade. It's called the Sun Cutter, and it turns the desert sun into, well, a sort of laser printer:

A mix of artistic commentary and clever engineering, the Sun Cutter and Solar Sinter might not be as versatile as their lab-dwelling counterparts, but they need much less in the way of infrastructure for support. The Sun Cutter focuses sunlight using a fixed ball lens, while cams on a solar-power-driven timing belt control the motion of a platform on which the raw material sits. The current incarnation of the Sun Cutter can cut paper, card, and plywood up to 0.4mm thick, and cuts out the frames of a cute, clever pair of sunglasses. How’s that for meta? Meanwhile, the Solar Sinter uses a different--and more easily acquired--feeder material than most other selective laser sintering (SLS) printers. Instead of powdered resins, plastic, or metals, the environmentally friendly 3D printer uses sand, plain old silica.

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As a longtime journalist in Southern Nevada, native Las Vegan Andrew Kiraly has served as a reporter covering topics as diverse as health, sports, politics, the gaming industry and conservation. He joined Desert Companion in 2010, where he has helped steward the magazine to become a vibrant monthly publication that has won numerous honors for its journalism, photography and design, including several Maggie Awards.