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Has Skynet come online?
October 17, 2007 8:52 AM   Subscribe

RepRap is a self-replicating rapid prototype machine (3D printer) using fused deposition modelling. You can build one, although I'm not sure why you'd need to....
posted by dersins (17 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
By Mefi's very own sebastienbailard.
posted by phrontist at 8:57 AM on October 17, 2007


Can I build this 3D printer with my 3D printer?
posted by Nelson at 9:07 AM on October 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


*flees the Singularity*
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:07 AM on October 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Can I build this 3D printer with my 3D printer?

Presumably. That is, after all, the point.
posted by dersins at 9:20 AM on October 17, 2007


That's the biggest piece of Grey Goo I ever did see!
posted by Greg Nog at 9:21 AM on October 17, 2007


I saw this in operation last week - pretty cool, although still very far from actually building itself without human help.

But, you can fill it with melted chocolate, allowing you to make 3-D deposited models out of delicious brown goo.
posted by blahblahblah at 9:34 AM on October 17, 2007


My clone will get a kick out of this.
posted by brain_drain at 9:42 AM on October 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


pretty cool, although still very far from actually building itself without human help.

Yeah, call me when it can synthesize its own plastic from sunlight and whatever stray biomass it can chase down.
posted by contraption at 9:44 AM on October 17, 2007


CNC milling machines have been able to "make themselves" for quite some time. Granted they don't utilize gooey extruded deposition, so I guess this is better.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:51 AM on October 17, 2007


This is a pretty cool idea, but it's a LONG, LONG way from being truly self-replicating. A true UC (universal constructor) would be able to take a bunch of rocks and plant/animal material as input and, eventually, output a new version of itself. This means it would need everything from a smelter to a chip fab onboard. And it would probably require humans to hunt down the correct elements. And getting the right elements would be annoyingly difficult... "No, no, I need 250 grams of molybdenum, not iron."

Basically, a UC would be a miniaturized version of Earth's entire economy. If we ever did actually manage to build one, that economy would change completely; there wouldn't be any reason to pay people to build things anymore. But we'd still need energy to grow food and power the UCs, so what on earth are these people going to do to eat until they can afford their own UC to make their own power sources? What a mess that would be.

Well, other problems aside, you can't fault the RepRap people for lack of ambition. :)

That said, this looks like a neat, useful gadget to have around. I like their 'first use' instruction... print out one or two of every part in the machine, so that if something breaks, you have a spare.
posted by Malor at 10:01 AM on October 17, 2007


HOLY SHIT -

I haven't seen a website for an invention so full of itself in years. What is up with the quotes on the right?

...will bring down capitalism, start a second industrial revolution, and save the environment...

Money is a sign of poverty.

Wealth without money.

A project to save the world...

...or at least to improve it.


Hey, if your little roboty doodum does something neat, that's enough. The rest is not only presumptuous, it detracts from the invention. And another GNU product? Please, just give the thing to the public domain.

And anyone else snickering a bit about the green "Darwin" robot being built by a commercial rapid prototyping machine (and just being spread out as a million little parts). DAMN THE MAN...who made that commecial prototyping machine possible and all your dreams come true...capitalist pig bastard
posted by Muddler at 10:07 AM on October 17, 2007


I wish I could afford one of these.
Too bad the pieces require so much finish work and it can't embed conductive material yet.

I'd love to get one once it can print out a toaster oven or new computer case.
posted by Dillenger69 at 10:35 AM on October 17, 2007


Interesting concept. I agree with Muddler that they could tone down the politics and attitude quite a bit, though.

But I've always found the idea of "bootstrapping" technology pretty interesting. (I think it's ever since I read Jules Verne's The Mysterious Island as a kid.)

I've been told by a few machinists that the real key to building your own shop, if you had to start out from next-to-nothing, is a lathe. With a lathe and some ingenuity, you can improve it and produce more and more accurate parts (e.g., you can cut your own threadcutting screw, which is tedious as hell, but with that done you can cut lots of other threaded parts). And from there you can slowly put together more complex machinery, including drills and milling machines that use turned bits (a lathe just uses a sharp piece of ground metal to cut with). And then you can make hobbing machines to cut gears, and you're off.

There's something conceptually similar between machines that can construct each other, and a self-replicating machine. There's a massive technology gap, which is the absence of human participation, but it just seems related.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:38 AM on October 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Somebody piped the wrong stereotyped jokes into this thread. RepRap is neither a self-assembling machine nor in any sense a nano-anything.

...the real key to building your own shop, if you had to start out from next-to-nothing, is a lathe.

Indeed.
posted by DU at 10:47 AM on October 17, 2007 [3 favorites]


Kadin2048, David Gingery takes it back one more step.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:50 AM on October 17, 2007


Jinx!
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:50 AM on October 17, 2007


Wow, DU and MoonPie, impressive. I wasn't aware of anyone doing that recently. The machines that I'd seen built up that way were mostly 18th/19th century constructions. Very neat.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:03 AM on October 17, 2007


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