‘This of RepRap as a China on your desktop’ is what the Open Source Program Manager at Google Chris DiBona said about the project. The RepRap printer is able to produce certain objects from your home and it costs just around 500 Euros to put together. What’s more interesting, even if somewhat idealistic, is that the project team is trying to make RepRap into a printer that will be able to replicate itself and produce other RepRaps, which could turn the RepRap into some sort of an industrial viral. This could potentially revolutionise the industry chain of everything being shipped from China to everywhere else be it the developed world or Africa. For that to happen, the RepRap would have to actually have to produce enough useful objects at prices that don’t exceed what you can buy in a supermarket. And, well, until now the RepRap can’t actually self-replicate itself completely, but whether that’s actually essential is a whole other question. My friend Jonathan wrote a much longer post discussing the RepRap:
Back to reality. Today the RepRap team has succeeded in designing and building a cheap 3D printer which prints in plastic only and can produce about 50% of its own parts. This is a historic event, and should not be underestimated. However, producing a new machine still requires a lot of basic hardware such as metal rods and screws, and also more exotic components such as specific integrated circuits and stepper motors. In RepRap’s evolutionary analogy, these raw parts (as well as plastic filament feedstock) are the naturally produced “vitamins” that the RepRap consumes from its environment in order to reproduce. As time goes on, the team hopes to produce designs for upgraded RepRap machines that can manufacture more of their own parts, and not incidentally the parts for more complex objects too. For example, they hope to be able to deposit metal films with the next generation machine, which would allow the RepRap to produce electrical wiring and basic circuits.
Would love to know what you think!
[Via Jonathan Stray]