Product update, 11/11/2016

SRM2 system now available for pre-order.

See Demo Video

Typical System less than $100,000 complete. Just add molds and plastic.

20 heliostats for heat, two–chamber molding enclosure, pv + battery for motor power, more.

Inquire- and Download PDF Spec

IMAGINE molding high quality plastic parts with no energy bill.   LightManufacturing’s solar plastic molding systems use solar heat from heliostats to make plastic parts..  Our Solar Rotational Molding (SRM®) systems cost less to purchase and to operate than traditional rotomolding systems – and don’t require a building or support structure.  Systems install on unimproved land and operate entirely off-grid.  No gas or electrical connection needed.        
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SRM Advantages:

  • Earn more than your competitors, or reduce price to gain market share.  5-30% finished part cost savings.
  • Zero carbon emissions, low-cost plastic molding
  • Generate carbon-credits
  • Add molding capacity at much lower cost than traditional molding cells
  • Deploy systems seasonally or on a trial basis – SRM systems can be moved / redeployed if desired
  • Easier permitting – no building, grid-tie energy required
  • Easily locate factories close to customers – reduce shipping costs, lead times
  • Economically viable on over 49% of Earth’s land mass.
  • SRM systems ship ‘turn-key’, with everything needed to make plastic parts except the molds and plastic resin.
  • Normal rotational molds can be used, with no modifications except a coat of solar absorptive paint.
  • Cycle times are equal or less than traditional rotomolding.
SRM Overview Video

Frequently Asked Questions

Click question to see answer.

What’s a Heliostat?

A heliostat is an apparatus containing a movable or driven mirror, used to reflect sunlight in a fixed direction. As the sun moves across the sky, a heliostat makes small adjustments to the position of a mirror in order to keep reflected light on a target. The larger the mirror mounted on the heliostat, the more energy and light is delivered to the target.

Can I heat and light a home or office with heliostats?

Yes.  Heliostats are a low cost way to capture light and heat and direct it into a building through windows.  In many buildings, some rooms never get direct sunlight at all – they face the wrong way.    Heliostats placed outside these cold /dark rooms can direct warmth and light into the rooms, transforming them into enjoyable, comfortable spaces.  Each H1 Heliostat can deliver over 1000 watts to a room, or over 115,000 lumens of light.

Multiple H1s can be combined to warm a single room faster, or you can use several H1 heliostats to warm different spaces simultaneously.

Applications include schools, office buildings, homes, industrial workspaces, farm buildings, and many other architectural uses.

Do you make solar furnace / solar oven 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.

Depending on your application, LightManufacturing  can supply ISO shipping container based sun furnace target enclosures, or you may construct your own target from locally available materials.

Similar terms:  sun furnace, solar furnace, solar oven, sun oven.

Are your heliostats for Sale? What’s the availability?

Yes, the H1 Heliostat is available for sale at our heliostat order page ( click here ). The H1 heliostat is available for sale to the general public in several configurations, and we also offer sales programs for commercial customers with volume purchasing needs.

Can heliostats enhance flat plate thermal collectors?

Yes – if you have a flat plate thermal collector (for example, for making hot water or hot air) the LightManufacturing H1 heliostats can help.  Fixed position flat plate collectors typically do not work well in the morning or later afternoon, because they are installed in a ‘best average’ position to maximize mid-day solar absorption.    This means less hot water or hot air at non-peak times.

Solution:  Use h1 heliostats to direct solar energy to your flat plate collector at off-peak times.

Can heliostats generate LEED points for my green building project?

Yes.  In fact, heliostats like the LightManufacturing H1 are one of the simplest ways to add sustainable, low-cost solar heat and light to a new green building project, infill project, or retrofit.  Heliostats are low cost, and supply heat and light through existing building windows.

» Read more about heliostats for LEED / green building applications.

Do the heliostats require a computer to operate?

No.  The H1 heliostat has an internal microprocessor, and no external computer is needed for regular heliostat operation.

A computer IS used for initial setup – eg entering heliostat location (lat/long) time of day, time zone, etc – and for defining the heliostat ‘targets’ – where you want the light and heat from the heliostat to go.   After this initial setup, which is done via USB connection or wirelessly (optional), the heliostat operates totally autonomously.  All it needs is 12V DC power – which can be provided by our optional P1 or P2 solar power supplies if you’re installing the heliostat somewhere without available local power.

Autonomous heliostat operation is very important if you’re managing multiple units – you don’t want your entire heliostat array taken offline because of a central computer failure, or because of a wiring problem.  LightManufacturing H1 heliostats are robust and failure-resistant in part because each one operates autonomously.   This is important both for heliostat architectural / green building applications and for heliostat solar thermal manufacturing.

What are the Key Advantages of the H1 Heliostat?
  • lowest price per watt in the industry
  • up to 2.3 M2 mirror area, delivers up to 2050 watts to target per heliostat, or over 230,000 lumens
  • autonomous operation – no computer connection required except for one-time setup.
  • 90%+ efficient reflector
  • NEMA-enclosed microprocessor in each heliostat, providing autonomous operation (configuring / programming one heliostat leaves rest of array operational.
  • Fast switching between user-defined targets – no ‘single-target’ limitation
  • 12V DC power
  • Fast heliostat startup cycle
  • flat-pack form factor for efficient shipping
  • easy field repair / adjustment
  • available wireless configuration and control from your laptop – intuitive & simple
  • scalable:   systems from 1 to 1000+ heliostats.  Unlimited heat / light.
  • robust, rugged design, tolerates 60+ mph wind gusts in any position, 90+ in ‘safe’ position
  • ideal tool for applying Concentrated Solar Power ( CSP ) to industrial processes
  • ideal heliostat for home / office daylighting and heating.
  • reduce or eliminate use of fossil fuels / carbon emissions / carbon taxes
  • generate LEED points or carbon credits for Green Building applications
  • commercial grade construction – all metal, no plastic frame elements.
What are the Wind Ratings of the H1 heliostat?
  • steady wind / normal operation OK to 25 MPH / 11 meters-second
  • gust rating any position OK to 60 MPH / 27 meters-second
  • gust rating ‘safe position’ OK to 95 MPH / 43 meters-second
What can I do with a Heliostat?

Heliostats are the most efficient and low-cost way to harness solar energy.  Heliostats can:

  • heat homes, offices, and other buildings – one H1 heliostat can deliver over 2000 watts of heat, with no energy bill.
  • provide sunlight to shaded spaces – ‘daylighting’.  Rooms in some buildings always face away from the sun.  One H1 heliostat delivers over 230,000 lumens of beautiful natural light, free
  • replace fossil fuel heat in industrial processes – for example, in our solar rotational molding systems, LightManufacturing replaces expensive, polluting gas-fired ovens with an array of silent, clean heliostats.   Ask us how free solar thermal energy can transform your industry.
  • make steam / ‘process heat’ for industrial applications
  • enhance oil extraction
  • reduce the moisture content of crops – eg drying nuts prior to roasting, drying seafood
  • industrial-scale cooking
  • sterilize medical equipment
  • melt snow and ice
  • generate electricity in ‘power-tower’ applications
  • build solar furnaces / solar ovens

…and much more.

What makes the H1 Heliostat special?

The LightManufacturing H1 heliostat is an industrial-grade heliostat that combines robust performance with easy setup and operation – and at the lowest price per reflected watt of any heliostat on the market.   Simply put, it costs less to heat a target with the H1 that with any other solution.

What are the H1’s advanced features?

The H1 heliostat employs a unique patents pending tensioned-membrane reflector which is more reflective than the best glass mirrors, but is safe, shatterproof and much lower cost.

The H1 incorporates advanced features including available wireless mesh networking remote control and configuration, integral microprocessors, and available on-board solar power systems.

How much energy does the H1 heliostat capture?

The H1 heliostat ships with a 1.21M x 1.21M (48″ square) aluminum composite reflector.

  • The 48″ square mirror reflects over 1000 watts onto a target in optimal conditions, or over 115,000 lumens if used for lighting applications.   This is the most energy/light captured by a commercially available heliostat.

In contrast to the H1, some smaller / consumer-oriented heliostats offer a mirror only .5 square meters in area, reflecting @ 425 watts of energy.  It would take 4 or 5 of these small units to equal one H1 heliostat.

I read about a less expensive heliostat. Is H1 a better investment?

The LightManufacturing H1 heliostat is a powerful commercial-grade heliostat, with a number of advantages over ‘home heliostat’ systems.

  • The H1 heliostat uses safe, tensioned-membrane mirrors which are shatterproof and tough, not glass like other heliostats.  The H1 mirrors shrug off impact.
  • The H1 heliostat uses only aircraft-grade aluminum structural elements for maximum durability, not plastic like other heliostats.
  • The H1 heliostat can be aimed exactly by USB or optional wireless connection, unlike other heliostats which require you to hand-aim the mirrors at a target.
  • The H1 heliosatat can change target easily between multiple targets you define, unlike other heliostats.
  • The H1 heliostat is MUCH larger and captures more light and heat than small ‘home heliostats’.  A H1 with 5′ square mirror has a mirror area of 2.3 square meters, as compared to consumer heliostats with mirrors only 0.5 square meters.
  • The H1 costs less per watt/lumen than any other heliostat on the market.  Purchase price of the H1 may be higher, but when you calculate the cost / square meter of mirror you’ll quickly see the advantage of the H1.
  • You can combine multiple H1 heliostats to deliver unlimited heat/light to targets you define, and you can switch all of your H1s from target to target with a single command.
Do you sell to the public, or to industry only?

LightManufacturing sells our heliostat products directly to the public.  Click the Order tab above for pricing and details.

We also offer direct purchasing to industrial clients and partners.  Contact us for more information.

What’s the problem with Rotational Molding?

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.

How does LightManufacturing help?

LightManufacturing’s patents-pendng process uses sun-tracking mirrors called heliostats, to concentrate solar energy on a rotational mold.   We have developed a uniquely capable heliostat, called the H1.  Heat from the sun directly warms the mold, melting the plastic.  Because the process uses heat directly in the molding process, the system is highly efficient:  75% efficient as compared to typical photovoltaic efficiency of 15% or less.  There’s no need to convert light into electricity, nor does energy have to be transported via expensive transmission lines to market.

Is the process economically competitive? Doesn’t Solar need subsidies?

Yes.  Unlike inefficient solar electric systems, our solar thermal systems capture and use over 75% of incident solar heat.  Also, the purchase cost of our heliostats and molding systems is much less than the equipment needed for traditional gas-fired plastic molding.

The result?  Lower buy-in costs AND  lower operating costs.   Solar thermal plastic molding out-competes traditional processes without subsidies – a rarity in the cleantech world.

 

The cost of Because we use the heat immediately to heat our molds,

Solar thermal technology  / CSP is much less expensive than solar electric technology, so the buy-in costs for a Solar Thermal Molding system are much less than traditional rotomolding systems.   Furthermore, the group of heliostats used in a solar thermal molding system can be quickly and easily retargeted from one place to another.  This ‘aimability’ allows us to simplify the design and reduce the cost of typical rotational molding (and vacuum forming) systems.

Are there other advantages?

Solar Thermal Molding does not require a concrete-floored building, or connection to the electrical grid, or natural gas hookup.  The H1 heliostat arrays can be installed in simple, unimproved terrain.   This further reduces capital requirements to install a Solar Thermal Molding system vs a traditional rotational molding.

How Large are SRM (Solar Rotational Molding) Systems?

Solar Rotational Molding Systems install into areas as small as 60′ x 60′ (3600 ft2).  However, most of this area is unmodified; it can be left as unimproved land, or even planted with low-height crops.  Here is how the land is used:

  • 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

Total: 1060 ft2    So, just 30% of the 3600 ft2 total area is occupied by objects.  The balance of the land remains unchanged.  Compared with the concrete-slab required to support a traditional rotational molding operation, SRM offers a far less impactful solution.

Large SRM systems scale as big as needed – 12 systems pack into a single acre of land.

Does the SRM process use ANY electricity?

Yes – electricity is used to position the heliostats, and electricity is used to drive the two motors in each molding armature.   For small to midsized molds, these motors are 1/2 horsepower and require a total of @ 745 watts peak power. Our Solar Rotational Molding systems include photovoltaic panels, batteries, and charge controllers – you can install an SRM system anywhere.  No grid-tie electricity is needed.

How much mirror area / heat is needed to mold typical plastics?

Because Solar Rotational Molding uses concentrated solar thermal energy, not solar electricity, it converts a very high percentage of available solar energy to useful heat.  SRM achieves  75% typical efficiency, vs solar electric’s 15-20% efficiency. This efficiency, combined with LightManufacturing’s heat management, positioning, and process control software allow mirror arrays as small as 224 ft2 to generate sufficient heat to mold objects roughly 3 ft x 3 ft x 3 ft.

A key difference between SRM and traditional rotational molding is that SRM heats the mold target by radiative heating (efficient, directly heats the metal) vs convective heating (gas burner heats air, which inefficiently heats the metal).

224 ft2 of focused mirrors yield approximately 17,000 watts of directed heat energy.

Aren’t most plastic things made in big factories in China?

Most people think of injection molding when they think of plastic manufacturing – this process is very capital intensive, and produces high volumes of relatively small, thin-walled objects – i.e. plastic cutlery, small toys, flashlight bodies, etc.

Rotational molding is best at making relatively large objects – from something 6″ across to very large objects such as 8′ diameter water tanks or 10′ long boats, with walls up to 1″ thick.  These large, heavy objects do not pack efficiently, and shipping them is essentially to ‘ship air’.  As a result, Rotational Molding is distributed across all markets – European Rotomolders making parts for Europe and for export, Asian rotomolders making parts for Asia and for export, etc.  The distributed nature of rotational molding allows LightManufacturing’s SRM process to be deployed as needed in solar-rich regions.

Isn’t all plastic molding environmentally ‘bad’?

Rotational molding, and Solar Rotational Molding (SRM) can use a variety of plastics – including virgin (new) material, and recycled material.  New plastic made from fossil fuel sources has environmental issues, but the longevity and reliability of rotationally molded plastic parts can make them compelling ‘green’ choices over the life of the product – particularly if some recycled content is used.

Thermoplastic objects are highly recyclable, a significant benefit in end-of-life reuse.  Solar Rotational Molding is an excellent way to close the loop and reuse post industrial and post consumer plastic for new products.  Finally, new plant-based plastics offer a source for high performance, rotationally-molded materials.

By removing energy costs from the molding process, SRM makes molding ANY plastic more sustainable and affordable, while reducing greenhouse gas and particulate emissions.  SRM applies Concentrated Solar Power / CSP to a globally-deployed industrial ”smokestack process”, and converts it into a sustainable manufacturing process – a cleantech ‘good citizen’.

What Polymers can the Solar Manufacturing Process Use?

Any rotational molding resign can be molded using SRM, including polyethylene, polypropylene, nylon, and other polymers.  The SRM process uses CSP / Concentrated Solar Power to achieve any desired molding temperature, and often with cycle times less than ordinary rotomolding.  Contact us to learn how we can help convert your traditional operation to a low-cost, sustainable manufacturing operation.