Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Solar CNC cutter

A laser cutter without the laser
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Laser CNC cutters are awesome, but very expensive. Most of this cost is a hefty CO2 laser and accompanying power supply. Let's do away with this expense, while making it vastly more efficient as well.

Start with a few big Fresnel lenses to collect sunlight. Light duty laser cutters use a paltry 40 Watt laser, while sunlight gives around a kilowatt per square meter, free of charge. Focus this light down a mirrored pipe to the machine, and you have a source of bulk concentrated energy. Add a couple photovoltaic panels while you're at it, and make the CNC part of the machine solar powered as well.

It won't be coherent, but with good optics you can focus it to a small blindingly bright spot. Laser cutters typically use a nonparallel focused beam anyway. To modulate the beam, simply move a small mirror into its path. It won't operate at night, but overcast days shouldn't be a problem for lighter duty work. And you certainly can't beat the free massive power influx on a sunny day.

Aq_Bi, Sep 24 2010

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       Sure. Go right ahead.   

       I like the idea, and as a former CNC-laser programmer, I say it would be nice, and almost feasible. But I think getting lots of sunlight down to a little point is harder than you think it is.   

       Lasers are getting cheaper, and only take electricity to run. Mirrors, lenses and a tracking system might cost a bit.   

       It would be a very nice thing to have, especially out in some of the developing areas. And wonderful if it was cheap.   

       I will bet you this croissant you can't make it practical. [+]
baconbrain, Sep 24 2010
  

       I recall seeing a similar setup on TV being used for surgery, twice, years apart on separate "amazing inventions" type programs. In both instances they used fibre optic cable in place of your mirrored tubes. If it's good enough for the surgeons - I say, have at it! [+]
BunsenHoneydew, Sep 25 2010
  
      
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