What if there were a machine that not only had free open-source schematics, cheap and easy to buy component materials, but it could also be made on demand for you as a clone of and from a copy of itself? Well, it exists – a real-life self-replicating factory. More than a mere three-dimensional printer, this project is in essence a way to turn your home into a miniature manufacturing plant.
For the science fiction junkies out there, yes: this RepRap is a replicator in both the Star Trek and Stargate senses of the word – a machine that can manufacture complex three-dimensional objects out of programmed designs and one that can also build copies of itself. Imagine the impact on the distribution of goods if we could simply download or create designs for objects we want to have and make them at home.
“RepRap takes the form of a free desktop 3D printer capable of printing plastic objects. Since many parts of RepRap are made from plastic and RepRap prints those parts, RepRap self-replicates by making a kit of itself – a kit that anyone can assemble given time and materials. It also means that – if you’ve got a RepRap – you can print lots of useful stuff, and you can print another RepRap for a friend…”
“RepRap is about making self-replicating machines, and making them freely available for the benefit of everyone. We are using 3D printing to do this, but if you have other technologies that can copy themselves and that can be made freely available to all, then this is the place for you too.”
The creators of RepRap point out that this is in many ways an extension of technologies we already have. We are used to computers and printers working as in-home photo studios and personal printing presses, so why not have a home factory as well? And of course, as new upgrades are designed and features are added, old RepRap machines can be given instructions to simply build the newer model.”
With each new iteration of the project, the machine is designed to be able to produce simple and complex objects using more and more materials and therefore to create additional components (from plastic corner pieces to entire circuit boards) for its own reconstruction. In short: they have slowly evolved to be able to fully recreate themselves, factories that can create new factors, machines building new ever-more-advanced machine copies of themselves. Skynet anyone?