Firm develops solar rotomolding

By Michael Lauzon
Correspondent

Published: May 9, 2012 6:00 am ET

LightManufacturing’s solar rotomolding in action. Inset: Heliostat mirrors are used to focus sun energy to heat a rotomold. (LightManufacturing LLC photos)

Related to this story

Topics Rotomolding

PISMO BEACH, CALIF. (May 9, 3:20 p.m. ET) — Karl von Kries has a vision of harnessing the sun to make plastic products.

The CEO of LightManufacturing LLC said he and coworkers have developed a way of rotationally molding plastic parts without relying on an electricity grid. Sun energy is focused by mirrors to heat a rotomold and photovoltaic cells generate electricity to run the rotomolder’s armature.

“It’s good where energy costs are high,” Von Kries said in a telephone interview. Areas where the technology is most practical include the southern United States, Africa and Australia.

“Nearly half the earth’s surface is viable for solar rotomolding,” he explained.

LightManufacturing’s technology relies on tensioned, metalized PET membranes, or heliostats, to track the sun’s position and act like mirrors. Small solar rotomolding plants can be placed near customers to avoid high transportation costs of bulky items like agricultural tanks, he explained.

“We will supply turnkey sysems of the heliostats, armature and photovoltaic array to small companies,” Von Kries said. Large companies with engineering departments could work with LightManufacturing to develop production systems.

LightManufacturing runs a test facility at its Pismo Beach head office. It tests about 25 22-square-foot heliostates, each capable of making several-gallon water tanks. As a rule of thumb, a 11-square-foot heliostat can generate about a 1,000 watts of energy in full sunlight.

Von Kries got the idea for solar rotomolding several years ago when he worked as a mechanical engineer in new product design with a New England rotomolder.

“I was out in the plant with these [rotomolding] machines and it struck me as an inherently wasteful process. I thought, ‘Why couldn’t we do this with solar heat?’”

Energy to run rotomolding ovens accounts for about 30 percent of the cost of the rotomolded product, Von Kries estimates. Typically ovens run on natural gas and in total emit more than 2 billion pounds of greenhouse emissions annually while molding more than 3.6 billion pounds of plastic.

“We use solar energy in its raw state and capture it,” Von Kries explained. The technology circumvents traditional solar strategies of converting the sun’s rays to electricity, which then must be transmitted some distance for use. And unlike conventional sun-to-electricity programs LightManufacturing’s approach does not rely on subsidies.

Von Kries said he is working on expanding solar heating to other processes, including injection molding and blow molding. It would probably be more capital intensive than rotomolding and likely entail use of light pipes to bring solar energy into a plant.


Comments

Firm develops solar rotomolding

By Michael Lauzon
Correspondent

Published: May 9, 2012 6:00 am ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Rail improvements also allow rotomolder to improve operations

July 24, 2014 3:10 pm ET

An infrastructure improvement grant from the U.S. Commerce Department is helping an Indiana plastics plant expand its product line and add jobs.    More

Market Reports

Plastics Recyclers Data Report & Directory

This exclusive MS Excel database contains all the companies from Plastics News' ranking of top North American Recyclers and Brokers by reprocessed volume and also includes a directory with materials processes, services offered and company contact information. Data is based on primary research by PN editorial staff.

Learn more

2014 Injection Molding Industry Report

GROWTH, OPPORTUNITY IN SIGHT FOR INJECTION MOLDERS IN 2014

In the wake of the economic turbulence earlier in this decade, molders today find themselves in much better shape. Molders are gaining a competitive advantage by investing in people, equipment and seeking inroads into new markets on a global scale.

Growth in the injection molding industry is going to be driven by low financing costs and a continued move to reshore some business.

Learn more

Shale Gas Market - Analysis of North American Region

This report highlights the impact of shale-based natural gas on the North American plastics market and features an in-depth analysis of production trends in the United States during 2013 and a forecast for 2014 and beyond.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

September 10, 2014 - September 12, 2014Plastics Caps & Closures 2014

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events