First Solar Thermal Energy Solution for Plastics Molding

The company’s unique "Solar Rotational Molding" systems, launched in June, promise to transform rotational molding from a smokestack industry that emits over 3.6 billion pounds of greenhouse gasses a year into a sustainability model citizen — and one with unusual economic advantages.

LightManufacturing specializes in rotational molding, a process by which most large, hollow plastic products are made. This includes everything from children’s toys to kayaks in the consumer world, and road barriers to water and fuel tanks in the professional world.

Notably, LightManufacturing’s Solar Rotational Molding (SRM(TM)) process costs less to operate and purchase than the traditional approach — a potentially revolutionary difference in a world used to ‘green’ but unaffordable projects. The company claims the process is viable on over 49 percent of the Earth’s land area.

The company’s SRM process — U.S. and global patent-pending — uses concentrated solar thermal energy to replace fossil fuel heat sources used in traditional rotational molding. 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.

"LightManufacturing’s SRM process directly harvests heat from the sun, which makes the system affordable to purchase and operate," said Karl von Kries, president of LightManufacturing. "Free, available sunlight and low-cost hardware packages replace the large, expensive hardware components used in traditional rotational molding. Furthermore, SRM systems do not require a building, electrical service or gas lines. Our test facility is set up on grazing land."

LightManufacturing will sell turnkey SRM systems to plastic molders and license its technology to other companies and development agencies, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The firm targets the solution for both the developed world and emerging markets where energy resources are limited and economic development is a challenge.