Whether it’s cast iron, porcelain or glass, Kohler has long been admired for its innovative and artistic use of a variety of different materials. Today, the company is furthering its reputation for creativity by teaming up with Markus Kayser, an artist, designer and inventor whose novel glass-making techniques are being hailed as inspired and revolutionary.
Kayser has designed and built a remarkable machine called the “Solar Sinter.” This device harnesses and focuses the power of the sun into intensely concentrated beams that are then strategically aimed at a series of trays of sand to form glass vessels. The results are beautiful and unique bowls that have been created in a completely sustainable way.
“When I came across the Solar Sinter project, I immediately realized the potential for a synergetic partnership with Kohler,” says Mark Bickerstaffe, director of new product development for Kohler in Europe & Asia Pacific. “We are always looking to push the envelope in design and product development, as is Markus. And in the end, all innovation stems from taking the leap and trying out a new process for the first time.”
With the sunlight as its engine and sand as its raw material, the Solar Sinter offers a virtually limitless world of product possibilities. And because the Solar Sinter is intended for operation in some of the harshest, most isolated regions in the world – deserts cover roughly a third of the globe – its use as a means of manufacturing could bring jobs to isolated communities without having a negative impact on the environment.
“Of course, the Solar Sinter as it is now is not practical as a manufacturing process, but it is a prototype for industry to get inspired to look in that direction,” Kayser has said about his invention. Further down the road, “I envisage a new solar–powered production tool of great potential.”
Kayser, who was born near Hanover, Germany in 1983, grew up watching his father improvise clever repairs in the workshop of their family farm. Inspired by the way his father re-used existing materials, Kayser channeled that concept of constructive recycling into his own unique work. His interest in how technology, nature and industry interact has long guided his designs and also led to his constant questioning of traditional methods and materials.
Kayser’s first solar machine, built in 2010 and aptly named “The Sun Cutter,” fit in a suitcase and represented the designer’s initial foray into directly harnessing sunlight to produce objects. After months of fine-tuning in the workshop of his family’s farm, Kayser has completed a second improved Solar Sinter machine and has spent weeks testing it in the deserts of Morocco. The machines are exhibited now at Palazzo Clerici in Milan, as well as with the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London. The products of this testing – small glass vessels of an almost otherworldly beauty – were exhibited in April at the Salone de Mobile Expo in Milan in the RCA graduate display.
By sponsoring Kayser and supporting his vision and vocation, Kohler reinforces its own long-term commitment to social and environmental responsibility. The Solar Sinter could open up exciting opportunities when it comes to manufacturing distinctive and durable sanitary products in a sustainable manner.
“While the products created by the Solar Sinter are undeniably lovely, the real focus for Markus is not to create art,” comments Bickerstaffe. “He wants to investigate its practical applications and ultimately, he wants it to influence the future of manufacturing.”
About Kohler Co.
Founded in 1873 and headquartered in Kohler, Wis., Kohler Co. is one of America’s oldest and largest privately held companies. Kohler is a global leader in the manufacture of kitchen and bath products, engines and power generation systems, tile and home interiors, and an international host to award-winning hospitality and world-class golf destinations.