Ming the Mechanic:
3D printer that can copy itself

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 3D printer that can copy itself2005-03-19 15:13
10 comments
picture by Flemming Funch

Via BoingBoing, an article about a scientist who's working on a 3D printer that can reproduce its own parts, at least most of them.
A self-replicating 3D printer that spawns new, improved versions of itself is in development at the University of Bath in the UK.

The "self replicating rapid prototyper" or RepRap could vastly reduce the cost of 3D printers, paving the way for a future where broken objects and spare parts are simply "re-printed" at home. New and unique objects could also be created.

3D printing - also known as "rapid prototyping" - transforms a blueprint on a computer into a real object by building up a succession of layers. The material is bonded by either fusing it with a laser or by using alternating layers of glue. When it first emerged in the mid-1990s, futurists predicted that there would be a 3D printer in every home.

But they currently cost $25,000 (£13,000) and so have not caught on as a household item, says Terry Wohlers, an analyst at Wohlers Associates, a rapid prototyping consulting firm in Fort Collins, Colorado, US. Instead, they are used by industry to develop parts for devices such as aircraft engines, spaceships and hearing aids.

Now Adrian Bowyer hopes to change that by making the first 3D printer capable of fabricating copies of itself, as well as a wealth of everyday objects. He reasons that prices would plummet to around $500 if every machine was capable of building hundreds more at no cost beyond that of the raw materials.
And he's planning on making everything freely downloadable. So, if we can avoid that HP somehow gets to control the market for the equivalent of ink cartridges, it sounds like a winner.

For computer languages it is a big milestone when one first succeeds in using the language for writing a compiler that will compile the language itself. So, it is only really full-featured once you can write it in itself. Would be splendid when that really spreads to hardware.


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10 comments

19 Mar 2005 @ 15:40 by swanny : Containment Aspects?
There is the question of containment...
What is the need for containment...??
Well there are only so many raw
materials on a "fixed" planet unless it can replicate
those too!  



19 Mar 2005 @ 15:45 by swanny : Perhaps...
Perhaps if they thought along the
lines of a device that could
"recycle" itself that would
be more sustainable.
A rapid "recycletype" aye!  



19 Mar 2005 @ 16:07 by ming : Raw Materials
The main problem with our use of raw materials is that we often leave them unusable after we're done with them. There's no particular lack of materials. The problem is just that we tend to make them useless waste, rather than just engaging the materials in a continuing cycle of use.

Yeah, an even better thing to invent than a Thing Printer would be a universal recycler. Some device you could stuff just about anything into, and it would take it apart into its component parts, which then could be reused.  



19 Mar 2005 @ 21:33 by Ge Zi @24.126.199.23 : what we need ...
... is a replicator like on start trek - - - right??
Everything else is just puny earth technology.  



19 Mar 2005 @ 22:29 by swanny : Hmmm
Hmmm hey maybe a "synthesis" if you had
a device that recycle things into it
constituent core parts then you could
"replicate" them into the new products
with greater efficiencies and green design. Sort of like
taking an obsolete product "recyclitizing"
into it components and making a modern product
with the parts plus maybe a slight improvision
in design and components....
hee hee
A "recycplicator"!  



19 Mar 2005 @ 22:31 by swanny : The picture
That picture looks more like a robot vacuum cleaner
on wheels or a robot of some sort than a printer.?????

 



20 Mar 2005 @ 16:37 by ming : Picture
Yeah, it looks like a part of R2-D2  


21 Mar 2005 @ 01:16 by astrid : 3D printer that can copy itself
I must be dum.... I don't get it at all!...???... " ...that can copy itself" like a kiddie making more kiddies????? a machine amaking more machines???? Is that what this is "all about" ???? Geeez. I feel stupid.... Not used to THAT!....heheheh... ; )  


21 Mar 2005 @ 10:45 by lugon @195.53.174.18 : combine with demotech
http://www.demotech.org - public domain designs - and a nice idea "more joy per person"  


29 Apr 2005 @ 02:56 by Tom Visel @216.19.17.203 : Nice picture
of a robot that will adjust its course when it hits a wall. The wire around the periphery is a switch.  


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