[ExI] Technology advances replicators
hkeithhenson at gmail.com
Thu Jun 5 01:27:44 UTC 2008
Posted: June 3, 2008
Prototype of machine that copies itself goes on show
Granted, this is not nanotechnology yet, but quite an interesting
development nevertheless: A University of Bath academic, who oversees a
global effort to develop an open-source machine that 'prints'
three-dimensional objects, is celebrating after the prototype machine
succeeded in making a set of its own printed parts. The machine, named
RepRap <http://reprap.org/>, will be exhibited publicly at the Cheltenham
Science Festival (June 4-8, 2008).
RepRap is short for replicating rapid-prototyper; it employs a technique
called 'additive fabrication'. The machine works a bit like a printer,
but, rather than squirting ink onto paper, it puts down thin layers of
molten plastic which solidify. These layers are built up to make useful 3D
objects. [image: RepRap]
RepRap has, so far, been capable of making everyday plastic goods such as
door handles,sandals and coat hooks. Now, the machine has also succeeded
in copying all its own 3D-printed parts. These parts have been printed
and assembled by RepRap team member, Vik Olliver, in Auckland, New
Zealand, into a new RepRap machine that can replicate the same set of
parts for yet another RepRap machine and so on ad infinitum. While 3D
printers have been available commercially for about 25 years, RepRap is
the first that can essentially print itself.
The RepRap research and development project was conceived, and is
directed, by Dr Adrian Bowyer, a senior lecturer in engineering in the
Faculty of Engineering & Design at the University of Bath, UK. Dr Bowyer
said that: "These days, most people in the developed world run a
professional-quality print works, photographic lab and CD-pressing plant
in their own house, all courtesy of their home PC. Why shouldn't they also
run their own desktop factory capable of making many of the things they
presently buy in shops, too?
"The possibilities are endless. Now, people can make exactly what they
want. If the design of an existing object does not quite suit their needs,
they can easily redesign it on their PC and print that out, instead of
making do with a mass-produced second-best design from the shops. They can
also print out extra RepRap printers to give to their friends. Then those
friends can make what they want too." R
ecently, Chris DiBona, Open Source Programs Manager at Google Inc,
encouraged people to: "Think of RepRap as a China on your desktop."
Sir James Dyson, Chief Executive of the Dyson Group, said: "RepRap is a
different, revolutionary way of approaching invention. It could allow
people to change the ergonomics of a design to their own specific needs."
Dr Bowyer hopes people will come to the Cheltenham Science Festival and
see both the 'parent' and the 'child' RepRap machines in action for the
first time together.
"RepRap is the most enjoyable research project I've ever run," he said.
"Without the many talented and selfless volunteers the RepRap project has
all round the world, it would have never succeeded so quickly."
Complete plans for the prototype RepRap 3D printer and detailed tutorials
to aid motivated amateurs (and professionals) in assembling one are
available, free-of-charge, at the RepRap website (details below). The
materials, plus the minority of parts that the machine cannot print, cost
about £300. All those non-printed parts can be bought at hardware shops or
from online stores.
Dr Bowyer and several of the other Reprap team members will be available
to answer questions and exhibit the parent and child RepRap printers in
operation at the Cheltenham Science Festival from June 4-8, 2008.
Source: *University of Bath*
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